Merced County’s unemployment rate is the lowest it’s been during the month of November in four years, according to numbers released Friday.
The jobless rate in the county for November was 13.6 percent, an increase of 2.6 percentage points from October, according to the state Employment Development Department, and the first time the jobless rate has dipped below 15 percent during November since 2008.
“That’s one positive way of looking at it. It’s things getting better throughout the last three years,” said Pedro Vargas, a labor market consultant for the EDD. “It takes into account more than just a month.”
The county has lost 2,400 farm jobs since October, which is on pace with the past few years during November, Vargas said.
What was not expected, Vargas said, was the loss of 700 manufacturing jobs. Those jobs were related to nondurable goods, which in the Central Valley most often describes canneries, he said.
Since October, the county has added 400 government jobs.
Merced County’s unemployment rate is the fourth highest of the state’s 58 counties. Imperial County ranks No. 1 at 23.8 percent.
The region’s jobless rate remains nearly double the national average, and there’s more woe ahead for local job seekers: Next week, more than 10,900 of them will lose their emergency unemployment compensation.
That’s because Congress has not extended federal benefits for those who have been out of work longer than six months. The loss of those weekly unemployment checks will likely cost the region millions of dollars a week in lost revenue. That emergency help is scheduled to disappear Dec. 28.
Robert Morris, director of Merced County’s Department of Workforce Investment, said this month it has been business as usual for Worknet, which provides training and other assistance for those looking for work. He expects to see more people looking for jobs in the new year.
“With the House and the Senate ending unemployment extensions there will probably be an uptick,” he said about the traffic in the Worknet office. “But that won’t be until January or February.”
To ease hardships caused by the recession, federal funds have been used since 2008 to help job seekers whose state unemployment benefits had run out.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has promised to bring a three-month benefit extension up for a vote Jan. 6 or 7. Even if the Democratic-controlled Senate approves the extension, however, the Republican-controlled House may not agree to vote on the matter.
Merced County’s representative in Congress, Jim Costa, D-Fresno, favors extending those jobless payments. Costa tried this month to get the House to vote on that issue, but was unsuccessful.
November’s unemployment rates in Merced County’s six cities were 13.5 percent for Merced, 13.9 percent for Atwater, 18.6 percent for Dos Palos, 7.8 percent for Gustine, 15.8 percent for Livingston and 14.3 percent for Los Banos.
Statewide the unemployment rate dipped two-tenths of a percentage point. Employers added 44,300 jobs, the best showing of any state. In the past year, payrolls in California have grown by 226,000 jobs, second behind Texas, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“We added a large number of jobs,” said Irena Asmundson, chief economist at the state Department of Finance. “People are finding work.”
One negative note: October’s job gains, previously reported as 39,800, were revised downward to 30,100. But “30,000 in October is still really positive,” Asmundson said.
The state’s unemployment rate has fallen by 1.4 percentage points in the past year.