Merced County recorded the lowest unemployment rate for the month of May (8.5 percent) on record, state labor analysts said Friday.
The county’s jobless rate was nearly 2 percentage points lower than May of last year when it was 9.9 percent, the state Employment Development Department reported. The county’s numbers go back 1990.
Farms began hiring for the summer and are likely to add more jobs in coming months, according to Steven Gutierrez, an analyst with EDD. The county recorded double-digit unemployment every month so far this year until May, including 10 percent in April.
“The biggest boost in May was the 2,300 agriculture jobs in Merced County,” he said.
Merced County’s jobless rate remains significantly higher than the state average of 4.7 percent, analysts said.
8.5 percentThe Merced County jobless rate in May
Despite the bump in farm labor, the county’s farm workforce of 14,700 amounted to about 200 fewer jobs than the same time last year. There were 1,000 more payroll jobs in May than last year.
The largest year-over-year increase was in manufacturing, which added 700 jobs. May was also the seventh-straight month in which the manufacturing sector grew compared to the previous year, according to EDD.
The government sector in Merced recorded 500 fewer jobs in May than a year earlier.
California’s unemployment rate of 4.7 percent came down from 4.8 percent a month earlier.
The state EDD said Friday that the May figure ties the record low that occurred in November-December 2000.
The overall trend is clear; the Golden State is gradually losing its wind in the sail as the tightening labor market and rising wages represent headwind for the economy.
Sung Won Sohn, an economist at California State University, Channel Islands
In May 2016, the unemployment rate was 5.5 percent.
The rise in the state minimum wage and increases in automation could be having effects on the state’s labor market, according to Sung Won Sohn, an economist at California State University, Channel Islands.
“California’s economy has resumed its upward trajectory in May after a temporary setback in April,” he wrote in a note to reporters. “However, the overall trend is clear; the Golden State is gradually losing its wind in the sail as the tightening labor market and rising wages represent headwind for the economy.”
According to EDD, government led eight of California’s eleven industry sectors adding jobs last month.
Three sectors reported job declines. Leisure and hospitality posted the largest decrease, followed by professional and business services.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.