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As California Experiences Economic Boom Some Workers Feel Left Behind

SAN JOSE (KPIX) - California's jobless rate is at it's lowest level in 40 years. The numbers are even better in the Bay Area.

For eight straight years, the Bay Area's economy has been in overdrive, fueling jobs, growth, and driving unemployment to historic lows.

"Here in the Bay Area, almost all of our counties are below three percent unemployment," says former Employment Development Department director Michael Bernick. "That's almost unimaginable,"

But the booming economy hasn't produced the widespread prosperity you might expect.

Bernick says wages have been relatively flat for years. That may finally be changing.

"We haven't seen overall wage increases. This past month, we saw a 2.6 percent wage increase over the year," he says.

Bernick says wages are going up, especially low income or minimum-wage jobs in the food service or hospitality industries.

Home health care worker Kim Salas sees things differently.

"There's a lot of times when you have to decide, 'Am I going to buy groceries or pay my rent?' That's what I struggle with," says Salas. "And that's what a lot of people are dealing with out here."

Salas is a supervisor in the home healthcare industry. She says she lives paycheck to paycheck with her mom and adult children all under the same roof just to make ends meet.

She says whatever modest gains she's made in salary is more than offset by the ever increasing cost of living.

"They may make a wage increase but as that's going on, housing costs are still going up and because of that, it never gives you that sense of getting ahead."

It is the tale of the Bay Area's economy -- unemployment goes down, and the price of everything else goes steadily higher.

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