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Farming jobs help grow ranks of employed in county

POSTED May 18, 2012 9:32 p.m.

An increase in farming jobs helped decrease Stanislaus County’s unemployment rate to 16.4 percent for April, giving it a rate well below last year’s estimate of 17.3 percent, according to the latest figures from the Economic Development Department.

April’s unemployment rate was below March’s revised rate of 17.3 percent. It’s also the lowest rate the county has seen since the start of the year.

“The month of April is when we usually start to see the farm numbers go up as the agricultural season gets going,” said Nati Martinez, an EDD labor market analyst. “We typically have the biggest growth in farming during April, May and June.”

Merced County’s unemployment rate fell to 18.8 percent in April, down from 20.2 percent in March. San Joaquin County also saw a decrease, dropping to 15.4 percent from 16.7 percent.

California’s unemployment rate came in at 10.5 percent and the nation’s was at 7.7 percent for the same time period.

The farming sector, with an estimated gain of 200 positions, was one of the few bright spots for the month among Stanislaus County’s industries. According to the EDD, only two other industries — leisure and hospitality and government — saw job growth for the month and both of those have net job losses for the year over. All other sectors in Stanislaus County remained flat or reported declines for the month.

The retail and transportation sectors took the largest hits with an estimated loss of 300 positions. Most of those losses were recorded at general merchandise stores and in transportation and warehousing of goods, according to the EDD.

“Those numbers are a big measure of whether people are buying or not,” Martinez said.

For the year over only farming and construction saw job increase. The government sector has seen the largest decline in employment in this area between April 2011 and this year, with an estimated loss of 900 positions, the EDD reported.

Manufacturing, long a mainstay of area employment, has been struggling the last few years as more companies like Hershey’s have relocated or closed down, like the upcoming closure of Patterson Vegetable Company. Even so, a recent report from the Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program shows manufacturing is faring well in Stanislaus County when compared to the rest of the nation. The nation saw a 33.2 percent decline in manufacturing from 2000 to 2010, while Stanislaus County had a decline of 6.9 percent, according to the report.

The decline in Stanislaus County’s unemployment rate was spread out among the various cities. Turlock’s rate dipped from 13.4 percent to 12.5 percent and Denair went from 9.7 percent to 9.1 percent. Hughson’s rate decreased to 21.2 percent from 22 percent in March and Keyes came in at 28.1 percent, down from 29.6 percent.

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