Because he's bilingual, Orozco said, he's faring a bit better than other regulars in the crowd, such as painter Mario Sandoval. The Central American immigrant said he wants to stay in the United States because his two children are in school here. But he's short $100 for the rent this month and hasn't worked this week.
"It's possible we'll leave and go back to Nicaragua," he said. "We just can't make it here anymore."
Over the last year, 44,800 construction jobs were lost in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura and San Diego counties, with the highest number -- 13,500 jobs -- lost in L.A. County.
Construction wasn't the only sector battered by the economic slowdown. Manufacturing shed 106,600 jobs last year, losing 7.7% of its workforce. The trade, transportation and utilities sector lost 127,100 jobs. Only education and health services posted gains, adding 22,800 jobs over the year.
Los Angeles County's unemployment rate matched the state's in December, rising to 12.4% from a revised 12.2% in November as employers shed 2,300 jobs in the county.
Other areas of the Southland experienced some improvement. Orange County's jobless rate declined to 9.1% from 9.6% in November, and the Riverside- San Bernardino County metro area's rate fell to 14.0% from 14.7%. San Diego County's jobless rate dropped to 10.1% from 10.6% in November, and in Ventura County the rate fell to 10.9% from 11.2%.
Despite some diminishing unemployment rates, the statewide loss of 38,800 jobs is disappointing, economists said. Job losses had been shrinking: In November, the state lost only 17,600 jobs, and it actually added 31,000 in October.
California's unemployment rate is the fifth-highest in the nation, after those of Michigan, Nevada, Rhode Island and South Carolina, and it's significantly higher than the national rate of 10%.
"California is in worse shape than the country in a lot of ways," said Dan Seiver, an economics professor at San Diego State University. "It's probable that the recovery here might be even more sputtering than the nation as a whole."