Business

Friday, Jan 18 2013 10:54 AM

County's unemployment rate rose to 13.5 percent in December

BY JOHN COX Californian staff writer jcox@bakersfield.com

Job losses in farming and other industries pushed Kern's unemployment rate up a full percentage point in December to 13.5 percent, the county's worst employment level since July.

Reflecting largely cyclical swings, local employers shed a total of 6,800 positions between November and December, according to preliminary estimates released Friday by the state Employment Development Department.

The bulk of those cuts -- 5,800 jobs -- were in farming, which tends to be seasonal. The department said positions were also lost in categories including construction (400 layoffs), mining and logging (200) and leisure and hospitality (200).

Over the same period, California's unemployment rate edged upward from 9.6 percent to 9.7 percent, while the national rate rose from 7.4 percent to 7.6 percent, the department stated. The figures were not seasonally adjusted.

December's local job numbers do not appear to signal any particularly meaningful shifts, said John Emery, dean of Cal State Bakersfield's School of Business and Public Administration.

Farms typically downsize at the end of the year, he said, adding that tourism and hospitality slow down around that time as well, while construction ebbs and flows.

"Remember, it doesn't take too much to change that construction (employment total) very much. They finish a road job somewhere," Emery said.

Between December 2011 and December 2012, Kern County lost 1,300 jobs, state data show. Farming accounted for 1,100 of those cuts.

Over the same period, the oil industry shed 600 positions, construction 500. Food manufacturing, meanwhile, gained 400 jobs and local government 500.

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