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Parked outside a Calexico job center, Jonathan Lopez leaned against his worn SUV and took a drag from a cigarette. He was waiting, yet again, for word on his unemployment application.

“A well-paying, full-time job is impossible to find,” the 39-year-old lamented as his son played nearby. “I have a family with four children and we struggle. It is a daily battle to make ends meet.”

As California has rebounded from the Great Recession, the Imperial Valley has largely defied attempts to expand its economy beyond seasonal farming and government work, and the county continues to suffer the highest unemployment rates in the state.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s latest five-year estimate, Imperial County’s unemployment rate stands at 16% — four times greater than the state’s overall jobless rate of 4.2%.

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