NORCO, Calif. (AP) _ Reporters in tow, Vice President Dan Quayle made a surprise stop at a Burger King last week, pointed to a ''Now Hiring'' sign and declared, ''Things are beginning to turn around in California.''

But restaurant manager Terie Roeder is the first to tell her many job- seekers that they won't earn a living with part-time work at minimum wage.

''Can you live on $4.25 an hour? Obviously, no,'' the 33-year-old manager said Monday. ''It's a joke to think that you can.''

California's unemployment rate is 7.7 percent - fifth-highest in the nation - with defense, aerospace and agriculture hit hard by layoffs.

During his California visit, Quayle noted that the recession is lingering longer in the state than in much of the rest of the nation. He said President Bush's Jan. 28 State of the Union address will focus on the economy and offer new programs.

Miss Roeder said that despite the short hours, wages that won't go much beyond $6 an hour after several years and no health insurance, more adults are applying for work at Burger King alongside the teen-agers.

''Now you're getting a lot of people who seem to have more money,'' she said. ''It used to be just all high school kids.''

Miss Roeder said she has 25 full- and part-time workers and would like to have 31. ''I have a stack of job applications this high,'' she said, holding her hand about 6 inches above a plastic table top.

Jobs at the restaurant about 40 miles east of downtown Los Angeles are available because of the traditionally high employee turnover, Miss Roeder said. Students go off to school, and others find better work, she said.

Asked during his surprise visit Friday how making $4.25 an hour would keep people off welfare, Quayle responded: ''If you have a part-time job, you have a job. That's better than no job at all.''

Miss Roeder agreed. ''He feels it makes a big change and so do I. I don't know how, but it should,'' she said.

Holly Smith, 23, has worked between 15 and 25 hours a week at Burger King for the past six months. ''This was all I could find,'' said the Corona resident. ''Before that, I was looking for a couple of months.''

She and her boyfriend, a construction worker on disability, combine their income to make the rent.

''It takes every bit of it. We're behind on our bills,'' she said. ''If it wasn't for my boyfriend's disability ...''

Miss Smith said she hopes someday to go back to school; she doesn't look to the restaurant for a career.

''As far as I know, you stay at the minimum,'' she said.

One customer smiled when told of the vice president's comments about the ''Now Hiring'' signs.

''He just happened to pick a place with a hiring sign,'' said Pete Spracklen, an Apple Valley resident who works at a construction company. ''If he had to look around he'd see differently. ... A family person can't work like that.''