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Unemployment jumps to start 2023

After a short delay, the California Employment Development Department (EDD) has released its preliminary labor force data for the first two months of 2023. Unfortunately for the local economy, statistics show that Stanislaus County and Merced County have each experienced high unemployment rates to ring in the new year.

In January, Stanislaus County’s unemployment rate spiked from 5.3% in December to 6.5%. That rate rose to 6.6% in February. Merced County tells a similar story, seeing the unemployment rate rise from 7.9% in December to 9.7% in January and 10.5% in February. In comparison, the state unemployment rate stands at 4.8% while the national rate is 3.9%.

During the opening months of 2023, the industry that saw the most drop-off has been the retail industry, most likely due to the conclusion of the holiday shopping season. Since December, Stanislaus County has lost 600 of these jobs while Merced County has seen a decline of 400 retail workers.

At the inaugural Turlock Business Conference on March 6, Stanislaus State professor of business economics and Foster Farms endowed professor Dr. Gökçe Soydemir correctly predicted the trend, explaining that retail sales were down across the board in the Central Valley in Q4 of 2022 while salaries steadily have increased since 2020, leaving little room for businesses to profit as much as they would like or would need in order to survive.

While the public is keeping their wallets tight when it comes to retail products, one thing that all people need is food on the table, which is why the farming industry has been one of the few industries of growth in the opening months of 2023. In both Stanislaus County and Merced County, the farming industry added 600 workers, respectively, between January and February.

Also consistent in each of the counties is the job demand in the health care and social assistance sector. There are currently over 1,700 online job adds for the industry in Stanislaus County with registered nurses in most demand with 515 openings available. Sutter Health and Tenet Health Systems are listed as the top employers for the county with over 300 vacancies combined.

Over in Merced County, there are 347 health care openings with registered nurses also in most demand with 77 openings. There is also a high demand for educational jobs in the county. Fittingly, the top employer in Merced County is UC Merced with over 150 jobs ads listed.

As far as individual cities go, Turlock’s unemployment rate checks in at 4.7% with about 1,600 individuals without work. Nearby Ceres also counts around 1,600 individuals unemployed, which represents a 7.2% rate. In Denair, Hilmar and Keyes, each have approximately 100 unemployed individuals. Denair’s employment rate is 4.7% while Hilmar’s is 5.8% and Keyes’ is 4.4%.  Meanwhile, Hughson reports a 9.4% rate with approximately 300 people without work. Further south, Delhi checks in with a 10.2% unemployment rate with 500 individuals without work while Livingston reports a 9.6% rate with 600 people unemployed.

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