Merced County's unemployment rate is down for the second straight month, dropping to 16 percent in September from 17.2 percent in August.
Government posted the largest increase during that time frame with 1,100 jobs, said Pedro Vargas, Merced County's labor market analyst, who added that 800 of those jobs were in local government -- mostly education. The other jobs came from federal and state government.
Leisure and hospitality employment dropped by 200 jobs, he said. Trade, transportation and utilities posted the same decrease over the past month.
Farm employment increased by 400 jobs from August to September.
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Over the past year, Merced County's jobless rate has dropped from 16.1 percent.
In that time span, trade, transportation and utilities reported the largest increase, adding 500 jobs, while manufacturing employment dropped by 600, Vargas said.
The area in Merced County with the highest unemployment is South Dos Palos at 38.5 percent, according to state data. The lowest unemployment comes from Hilmar at 8.3 percent, followed closely by Gustine at 9.2 percent.
The latest numbers show some promise, said Merced City Councilwoman Mary-Michal Rawling, whose city has a jobless rate of 15.8 percent.
And with the recently opened Hobby Lobby bringing dozens of jobs back to the city, some headway has been made.
Rawling said she's heard nothing but positive feedback about Hobby Lobby. "I think the store is a beautiful addition to the community," she said.
Whether it's downtown, uptown or in the mall, Rawling said, the city is determined to bring business back anywhere possible. "We've been focused the last couple years on filling the empty buildings that were vacated throughout the recession," she said.
Still, Merced residents took a big hit from the economic collapse, and there's a lot of work left to be done, Rawling noted. "I think it's going to be awhile before things are good again," she said. "But I think there have been some positive signs of growth."
With September's drop in unemployment, Merced County is now fifth-worst for unemployment in California, which has an overall jobless rate of 11.4 percent.
Unemployment in Merced County and its cities
Merced County 107,700 90,500 17,200 16.0%Atwater 12,600 10,600 2,100 16.3%Delhi 4,100 3,700 400 10.3%Dos Palos 2,100 1,700 500 21.6%Gustine 2,500 2,300 200 9.2%Hilmar 2,800 2,600 200 8.3%Le Grand 800 600 200 26.0%Livingston 5,400 4,400 1,000 18.4%Los Banos 13,500 11,200 2,300 16.8%Merced 31,900 26,800 5,000 15.8%Planada 1,900 1,200 700 35.5%South Dos Palos 500 300 200 38.5%Winton 4,200 3,200 1,000 23.2%
Reporter Mike North can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or firstname.lastname@example.org.