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County sees increase in unemployment rate; Emanuel Medical Center eliminates 22 positions

POSTED January 21, 2011 9:39 p.m.

Economists may be preaching about the road to recovery, but the sluggish economy is continuing to take a toll on Stanislaus County, with the ranks of unemployment growing in the last month, according to the latest figures from the Economic Development Department.

Stanislaus County’s unadjusted seasonal unemployment rate reached 17.6 percent in December, up from a revised 17.1 percent in November and above the year ago estimate of 17.3 percent.

The rates were even worse for Merced County, which grew to 20.1 percent in December, up from 18.6 percent in November. In San Joaquin County the unemployment rate reached 18 percent in December, up half a percentage point from the previous month.

The unemployment rate in California increased to 12.5 percent for the month, up slightly from 12.4 percent in November and the December 2009 rate of 12.3 percent.

The number of people unemployed in California was 2,269,000 — up by 3,000 over the month and up by 35,000 compared with December of last year, according to the EDD.

The EDD reported that there were 599,221 people receiving regular unemployment insurance benefits during the December survey week. This compares with 600,196 last month and 792,764 last year. At the same time, new claims for unemployment insurance were 87,289 in December 2010, compared with 72,768 in November and 80,873 in December of last year.

The U.S. unemployment rate in December, however, decreased to 9.4 percent.

The dismal figures for Stanislaus County in December pushed the average unemployment rate in the county for 2010 to 17.5 percent. The highest month was in March when the EDD posted a 19.2 percent unemployment rate. The average unemployment rate in 2009 was 16 percent.

The unemployment rate in Turlock declined slightly from 13.2 percent in November to 13 percent in December. The slight improvement may be short-lived given the recent announcement by Emanuel Medical Center that they are laying off 22 employees. EMC is Turlock’s third largest employer, according to the Turlock Chamber of Commerce economic profile.

EMC said the cuts became a necessary step as they deal with a growing number of patients unable to pay for health care services.

“Emanuel’s service area has been hit harder by the economic downturn than most of the country,” said John Sigsbury, the hospital’s president and chief executive officer. “As a result, Emanuel is seeing more and more patients who have no ability to pay for health care services.  Uncompensated care at Emanuel grew from $52 million in our 2010 fiscal year to $58 million in our 2011 fiscal year.  At the same time, hospitals are being paid less to deliver care, all the while operating costs continue to climb.”

The hospital decided to trim staffing after studying staffing levels at other similar sized hospitals, Sigsbury said.

“This was not a hasty decision and these steps were taken only after a lengthy assessment of our operations,” he said.

The 22 employees represent both part time and full time workers and include management, non-management, clinical and non-clinical positions.  No bedside registered nurses were eliminated, according to hospital officials.

 The reduction represents 1.5 percent of EMC’s total work force of 1,443.

The hospital will be providing severance packages to qualifying employees and has offered a free, paid-to-attend certification program to the six non-certified nursing assistants affected by the reduction.  Completion of the program will result in nursing assistants obtaining a state certification required by law to work in skilled nursing facilities.

Education and Health services were one of the sectors in Stanislaus County that had neither a loss or gain of jobs for December. The other sectors were manufacturing, information services, financial activities, professional and business services, leisure and hospitality, and other services. Agricultural-related jobs posted the largest losses at 900, followed by mining, logging, and construction at 300 and government at 200. Trade, transportation, and utilities was the only sector to post a gain at 100.

One industry that is enjoying some growth are jobs associated with environmentally-friendly practices.

New data released by Next 10’s second “Many Shades of Green” report shows that green jobs continue to grow at a healthy clip, even in the wake of the economic crisis. From January 2008 to 2009, the most recent observable year, jobs in the green sector grew more than three times faster than total employment in California

The San Joaquin Valley’s green economy expanded by 55 percent from January 1995 to 2009, producing nearly 3,360 jobs, according to the report.

Next 10 is an independent, nonpartisan organization focused on innovation and the intersection between the economy, the environment, and quality of life issues for all Californians.

“The green job data is significant because these jobs are growing in every region across the state, outpacing other sectors, and generating business across the supply chain,” said F. Noel Perry, founder of Next 10.  “While green job numbers are modest relative to the overall economy, there are very few business sectors in a state as large as California that employ people across every region. The emergence of this vibrant Core Green Economy can be attributed to California’s history of innovation, as well as our forward-looking energy and energy efficiency policies.”

To contact Sabra Stafford, e-mail sstafford@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2002.
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