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Central Valley economy report shows expected increase in poverty and unemployment
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Challenges within the Central Valley are expected to come in the package of increased population leaving too many people with not enough jobs to offer them. As a result, the Central Valley will see an increase in poverty and unemployment rates, according to the third edition of The Economy by the Great Valley Center released Friday.
The Economy report is part of The State of the Great Central Valley indicator series, which provides a comprehensive glance at the region in comparison to the state. The report focuses on the region of the Central Valley which ranges from Redding down to Bakersfield for a total of 450 miles long. There are 19 counties in the Central Valley and they have been divided into four groups. Stanislaus County is part of the North San Joaquin Valley group.    
“Job growth is not growing as fast as the labor force, so unemployment could still be a problem as the rest of the state improves,” said Amy Moffat, director of research and communications at the Great Valley Center.  
In preparation for this challenges, The Economy report goes into detail about five different solutions. One of the solutions is to improve the quality of the workforce which would entail economic development efforts, job training, the education system, and the business community working together to help develop a skilled workforce that will better provide food, shelter, necessities and hope for a secure future.  
The second recommendation to help better the Central Valley is to continue to support agriculture as a regional economic base. This will help agricultural jobs and businesses expand to add even more value to the Valley.  
The main concern with the increase in population is the extra demand in the workforce, so a recommendation provided by The Economy report is to diversify the economy to meet the needs of a growing workforce which would be supporting new innovative industries like clean technology, health care and professional services.  
Along with promoting an increase in jobs for the increased workforce, capitalizing on the momentum surrounding the federal recovery act is set as a recommendation. This would help public, private and nonprofit sectors seek stimulus funds so that organizations are able to provide services to a greater number of people.  
The data is divided into five general categories of population, income and housing, business vitality, agriculture, transportation, and federal and nonprofit spending.   
Population, Income and Housing
The population in the Central Valley is expected to double within the next 40 years, which can lead to an increased workforce with no increase in jobs available due to the economy. These factors open the door to lower wages and a higher unemployment rate, according to The Economy report. In this current downturn the Central Valley is seeing one of the state’s highest unemployment rates, which was at 15.2 percent in September.
“Although the Valley’s unemployment is higher than other areas of the state, the labor force continues to grow, especially since the region has low housing costs,” Moffat said.
With the challenges faced by an increase in population and no jobs to offer, the per capita income is below state average, according to The Economy report. The per capita income is calculated by taking the total dollars of income of the Central Valley divided by the total number of people in the Central Valley. The highest salaries in the Valley are in construction, manufacturing, and information industries, according to The Economy report.
Along with the per capita income lower than state average, construction for new residential buildings has decreased in the North San Joaquin Valley alone by 853 percent between 2005 and 2008, according to the report. The foreclosure rate for the North San Joaquin Valley is 79 percent higher that the state average as well.  
According to The Economy report, if the Central Valley was a state, it would be ranked the first in the nation in agriculture production. The Valley produces 57 percent of California’s agriculture production and 12 percent of the nation’s agriculture output.  
“If the Central Valley itself were considered a state, its agricultural value would still rank as the number one state in the country, but rank number 48 in the nation for per capita income,” Moffat said.  
Throughout California, seven out of the top eight agriculture producing counties are in the Central Valley. Agriculture jobs in the Valley provide 10 percent of all jobs available.
Stanislaus County is known for their milk, almonds, chickens, cattle and walnuts.  
Transportation, Commerce and Mobility
There are a lot of commuters that live within the Central Valley, 76 percent of them to be exact, commute to work everyday, according to The Economy report.  
San Joaquin County had a longer commute time than the state average commute time with the highest mean travel time of 30.6 minutes.  
Along with driving time, the Sacramento International Airport within the Central Valley, continues to dominate passenger air travel.  
To contact Maegan Martens, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2015.