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Merced County unemployment jumps because of seasonal farm losses

Merced County's unemployment rate jumped to 18.3 percent in November from October's 16.4 percent in what is a normal loss of farming related jobs as the harvest comes to and end, according to the state’s Employment Development Department.

"Over all, the biggest loss is the loss of ag jobs," said Pedro Vargas, a labor market consultant for the state.

While workers in Merced lost jobs in November, the state and nation saw a staunching of recent job losses. California's unemployment rate for November dipped slightly to 12.2 from 12.5 and the national unemployment rate also went down to 9.4 percent from October's 10.2.

Outside of the 2,100 jobs lost in farming, the county saw a rise in employment. Four hundred new jobs were created in the trade transportation and utility industries and an equal number were created in education during that same time. Manufacturing lost 400 jobs and leisure and hospitality lost 100 jobs during November, according to EDD.

The total number of unemployed people in Merced County was 19,700 in November.

The county's unemployment rate comes from a monthly survey of county employers conducted by the state, said Vargas.

The ranks of the county's unemployed may be higher than the survey indicates, since the survey doesn't include people without jobs who have not looked for new work in the last four weeks, he added.

The national and state unemployment numbers also don't include workers discouraged and no longer looking for work, so the real number of people without work may be higher than reported.

For instance, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in November there were 2.3 million Americans categorized as "marginally attached" to the work force, since they had not looked for work in the last four weeks.

In addition to discouraged and marginal workers, 9.2 million people nationwide didn't have full time employment in November.If you add these numbers to the 15.4 million officially unemployed, the number of people with little or no work would be 26.9 million or roughly 17 percent of the work force.

Reporter Jonah Owen Lamb can be reached at (209) 385-2484 or jlamb@mercedsun-star.com

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