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Merced County’s unemployment rate the best it’s been since 2007

A man works on a farm off Ashby Road in Merced on Friday. According to the Employment Development Department, there were 1,700 more jobs recorded in Merced County in January than the same time last year. Of those jobs recorded, 400 were seasonal farm labor jobs.
A man works on a farm off Ashby Road in Merced on Friday. According to the Employment Development Department, there were 1,700 more jobs recorded in Merced County in January than the same time last year. Of those jobs recorded, 400 were seasonal farm labor jobs. akuhn@mercedsun-star.com

Despite a seasonal rise in the unemployment numbers, Merced County’s 12.6 percent rate in January was four-tenths of a percent lower than a year ago, labor market analysts said Friday.

There were 1,700 more jobs in the county in January than the same time last year, including 400 more seasonal farm labor jobs, according to the Employment Development Department.

The manufacturing and the educational and health services sectors each had 600 more jobs in Merced County in January than they did a year ago.

The government sector tallied 400 fewer jobs and professional and business services counted 200 fewer than a year ago, EDD said.

Though the seasonal unemployment rate rose in January from December’s revised 10.7 percent, Merced County’s jobless rate was the best it’s been since 2007, according to Rosendo Flores, a labor market analyst with EDD.

12.6 percentJanuary unemployment rate in Merced County

“That’s pretty true for most of the Valley,” he said.

Fresno recorded a 10.6 percent rate and Madera did slightly better at 10 percent, while Kern showed a 11.1 percent rate and Tulare reached 12.4 percent, according to Flores.

California’s job growth continued its sluggish pace in January, although the Golden State’s unemployment rate fell a tenth of a percentage point to 5.1 percent.

The Central San Joaquin Valley and the Inland Empire, though growing, have not experienced the kind of boom experienced along the coast, Sung Won Sohn, an economist at California State University, Channel Islands, said.

While Marin (3.2 percent) and San Mateo (2.9 percent) counties sport “very low” unemployment rates, Sohn said in a note to reporters, 19 out of 58 counties have jobless rates exceeding 8 percent. “Hopefully the tight labor market conditions elsewhere will spill over into these high jobless areas, lowering unemployment,” he wrote.

The state EDD report said California added 9,700 jobs in January.

Hopefully the tight labor market conditions elsewhere will spill over into these high jobless areas lowering unemployment.

Sung Won Sohn, an economist at California State University, Channel Islands

That was an improvement over the addition of only 3,700 jobs to close out the year in December, when the statewide jobless rate was 5.2 percent.

Despite the months of year-over-year improvement, Merced County and the rest of the Valley continue to experience unemployment rates that are substantially higher than either the state or national averages. And that is not a situation that is likely to change in the near future, said Michael Bernick, a San Francisco employment attorney and former director of the state Employment Development Department.

“It’s nothing new that the Valley and other agricultural parts of our state have for many years had significantly higher unemployment than the state, often double or more,” Bernick said Friday. “It’s a phenomenon we’ve seen for decades … because of the seasonal nature and the agricultural base of Valley employment.”

By comparison, the nation’s unemployment rate increased 0.1 percent in January to 4.8 percent.

The Fresno and Sacramento Bees contributed to this report.

Thaddeus Miller: 209-385-2453, @thaddeusmiller

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