California voters have a sour outlook about the state's economy and their own employment prospects, according to a downbeat poll released Friday that mirrors the sluggish and uneven rebound in the Golden State's job market.

An estimated 72 percent of California voters say the economy is mired in "bad times," according to a new Field Poll survey of 834 registered voters in February.

For the sixth consecutive year, a dreary stretch that began with the onset of the recession in 2008, more voters reported their present financial situation is worse than it was the year before than reported that their financial situation has improved.

"The unemployment situation is weighing down the economy," Mark DiCamillo, director of San Francisco-based Field Research, said in an interview with this newspaper. "There are not a lot of silver linings in this report. People are very pessimistic."

The poll also determined that 61 percent of California voters see the unemployment situation as "very serious," and only one-third say they expect their job prospects to improve during 2013.

About the only bright spot in the poll, Field Research said in a prepared release, is "a slight improvement in the extremely bleak assessments of the state's economy that voters have offered over the past five years."

Jordan Levine, director of economic research with Beacon Economics, said that while the state's economy is growing, the poll reflects "a sense that we haven't caught up with the prior expansions. People believe we are still in hard times."

Compared with the state as a whole, there is less cause for gloom in the Bay Area, which created 91,400 jobs last year -- 40 percent of the 225,900 jobs created in all of California.

"The Bay Area is in much better shape than California," said Scott Anderson, chief economist with Bank of the West. "Job growth in the Bay Area is twice as fast as California and the nation."

The California jobless rate remained stuck at 9.8 percent in December, and job totals fell by 17,500. Both results point to a statewide economy that is still facing challenges.

"The poll results are surprising and they are disappointing," said Jon Haveman, chief economist with the Bay Area Council's Economic Institute. "That pessimism will hurt the economy."

According to the poll, 44 percent of California voters believe they are worse off financially now than they were a year go, while 30 percent believe they are better off financially.

A job seeker grabs a flyer advertising a job at Orange County One Stop Center in Westminster, Calif., Friday, Jan. 4, 2013.  (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
A job seeker grabs a flyer advertising a job at Orange County One Stop Center in Westminster, Calif., Friday, Jan. 4, 2013. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong) ( Jae C. Hong )

"The more pessimistic people are, they will be less likely to spend money," Haveman said. "That will reduce aggregate demand and curtail the recovery."

Mike Henneberry, a spokesman for United Food and Commercial Workers Local 5, said the pessimistic poll results reflect the mood of the rank-and-file supermarket workers he represents. "Hours are down in retail grocery," he said.

The brutal recession and sluggish recovery left many workers with an attitude of resignation that their financial and employment circumstances simply won't improve in any meaningful way.

"It's almost like a new normal in California," DiCamillo said. "We are nowhere near full employment. And people are being asked to deal with high levels of unemployment as a structural situation."

Contact George Avalos at 408-373-3556 or 925-977-8477. Follow him at Twitter.com/george_avalos.