Agriculture

Merced County jobless rate dips – again

Alfredo Gonzalez of Winton milks dairy cows at the RV Dairy farm in Winton, Calif., on March 26. An influx of about 900 farm jobs played the biggest part in pushing the April unemployment rate down to11.6 percent from March’s revised rate of 12.6 percent, and the year-ago estimate of 13.5 percent.
Alfredo Gonzalez of Winton milks dairy cows at the RV Dairy farm in Winton, Calif., on March 26. An influx of about 900 farm jobs played the biggest part in pushing the April unemployment rate down to11.6 percent from March’s revised rate of 12.6 percent, and the year-ago estimate of 13.5 percent. akuhn@mercedsunstar.com

The unemployment rate in Merced County dipped in April to 11.6 percent, down from March and down from the same time last year, according to numbers released Friday from the state Employment Development Department.

An influx of about 900 farm jobs played the biggest part in pushing the April rate down from March’s revised rate of 12.6 percent, and the year-ago estimate of 13.5 percent.

In the spring and summer, the jobless rate usually sees a dip as farm hiring begins in the agriculture-heavy Valley counties. “As far as the Central Valley is concerned, this is sort of a normal seasonal pattern,” said Steven Gutierrez, a labor analyst with EDD.

11.6 percentMerced County jobless rate for April

April’s unemployment rate was also the lowest it’s been this time of year since 2007. Though the Valley often lags behind other parts of the state, the latest figures show the economy continuing to improve regionally and statewide.

Other industries related to farming, like manufacturing, should also see a rise in seasonal jobs in the coming months, Gutierrez said. The manufacturing industry in Merced County has also seen the greatest increase in the last year, with 2,100 more jobs in April than the same month last year.

Unemployment statewide fell to 6.3 percent, down two-tenths of a percent. That was the lowest since March 2008. Nonfarm employers added 29,500 jobs during the month.

A year ago, the unemployment rate was 7.8 percent across the state. “Continued good news,” said Irena Asmundson, chief economist at the state Department of Finance.

California still exceeds the U.S. unemployment rate of 5.4 percent. Nearly 1.2 million Californians are unemployed, though that is a quarter-million fewer than last year.

The state added 29,500 nonfarm payroll jobs last month, for a total of nearly 1.9 million new jobs since the economic recovery began in 2010. That followed a revised gain of 40,500 jobs in March.

Eight categories added a total of nearly 36,000 jobs in April. Professional and business services had the largest increase.

Financial activities saw the biggest drop in jobs.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Thaddeus Miller: 209-385-2453, @thaddeusmiller

AT A GLANCE

Unemployment rate in Merced County by city, according to state Employment Development Department

Atwater: 12.7 percent

Dos Palos: 16.3 percent

Gustine: 11.9 percent

Livingston: 14.2 percent

Los Banos: 11.8 percent

Merced: 10.9 percent

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