BY ANNA BURLESON Californian staff writer email@example.com
Timothy Falbo came out of the Bakersfield Career Services Center Thursday afternoon with a smile on his face; he had a phone interview scheduled for 2 p.m.
Falbo worked in Washington in the logging industry for most of his life before moving to Bakersfield last Sunday. He came in search of a job when his industry declined. He's optimistic Kern County won't let him down.
"There's a lot of work out here, as far as oil fields and berry fields," he said. "This place has a lot of resources."
And he might be right.
Bakersfield had the highest percentage of employment gain, or more jobs -- at least for awhile.
From December 2010 to December 2011, Kern County experienced 5.3 percent employment gain, the highest in the nation, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The bureau released its numbers this week. The bureau does not have any up-to-date statistics on employment gain, so it's not known where exactly we're at now.
However, as previously reported, the Brookings Institute found the Bakersfield-Delano area added the most jobs in the first quarter of 2012 of any place in the nation, second only to New Orleans. That's more recent data.
Aaron Ellis, one of the Career Services Center's deputy directors for Employers' Training Resource, said there were many jobs available last year, but the number of current job openings and recruitments is even higher now.
"We have definitely seen an increase in job openings and recruitments here at the center," he said.
But there is a downside; while employment gain has improved, wages have fallen, according to bureau statistics that show the average weekly wage in Kern County decreased about 1 percent, to $826, in the last quarter of 2011.
Bureau Information Officer Matthew Insco said this could be due to more people working part-time jobs.
"It was pretty similar across the board; employment went up and wages went down in every county," Insco said of California.
Ellis blamed it on the high volume of people looking for a job who are willing to work for cheap.
"I believe it's an employers market," he said. "They have so many applicants to choose from."
Jobs involving manual labor currently have the most openings and the most recruitments. Those include warehouse positions, oilfield positions, welders, construction jobs and crane operators.
Bakersfield-based CITA Development Inc. works in a variety of fields revolving around construction and has hired more laborers than administrative workers, said CEO Bob Bell.
"2011 was a real big shift for us," Bell said. "It looked like the year was going to be terrible, but then we got solid leads on new projects and we just went with it."
But there are exceptions to every rule.
Norma Bastidas sat outside the career center Thursday afternoon. She was there with her two sons looking for a production job in a warehouse, but hasn't had any luck. She has been unemployed since before last winter and blames it on her lack of computer skills.
"I've been looking and I want to work, but it's not better, it's the same," she said.
Financial Officer Steve Fritzen of Colombo Construction Inc. said the local company has only recently started hiring workers and that no one was hired in 2011.
"As a construction company, we only hire people if we get jobs," he said. "If you don't have the work, you don't hire the people."
But Ellis is confident that the employment situation in Kern County is improving overall.
"I'm hoping solar farm and wind farm projects will open up and increase a lot of jobs in east Kern," he said.