The percentage of working-age Californians with jobs has fallen to a record low, and employment may not return to pre-recession levels until the second half of the decade, according to a research group.

Just 55.4 percent of working-age Californians, defined as those 16 or older, had a job in July, down from 56.2 percent a year earlier and the lowest level since 1976, the Sacramento- based California Budget Project said in a report released late yesterday.

California’s 12 percent unemployment rate in July, the nation’s second-highest after Nevada, compared with 9.1 percent nationwide. The most-populous state lost 1.4 million jobs during the recession that began three years ago, and has gained back only 226,800, or about 17 percent, according to the report.

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