Friday, Nov 22 2013 10:25 AM

Kern jobless rate hits 10.3 percent amid education hiring

BY JOHN COX Californian staff writer

In a positive sign for the local job market, Kern County's economy added a total of 1,600 positions in October, bringing its unemployment rate to a seasonally unadjusted 10.3 percent -- nearly four points below January's peak.

Job losses in manufacturing and farming were more than offset by a surge in local government hiring in education, which alone accounted for 1,600 new positions in October, the state Employment Development Department reported Friday.

Last month's jobless rate represented a small increase from September's 10.1 percent, the year's lowest and a big drop from January's 14.2 percent. September's figure was not reported as scheduled because of the federal government shutdown.

California's unadjusted unemployment rate was 8.3 percent in October, compared with the national rate of 7 percent.

Friday's county-level report was a mixed bag. While local hiring in education saw by far the largest change since September, many other sectors posted lesser gains or losses, suggesting small but widespread adjustments in the economy.

Categories listed as having added about 100 jobs were oil and gas, food and beverage stores, clothing retailers, general merchandise stores and ambulatory health care services. Construction saw a 200-job increase.

Overall, these small gains were negated by 100-job losses in the areas of farming and information as well as 300 layoffs in manufacturing, primarily food processing.

Enrollment has grown incrementally at many local schools, which would explain much of October's hiring increase. On a year-over-year basis, local government employment in Kern County schools was up by only 400 positions, or 1.5 percent.

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