Business

Friday, Nov 16 2012 09:07 AM

Kern unemployment data suggest continued recovery

BY CHRISTINE L. PETERSON Californian business editor cpeterson@bakersfield.com

Kern County's unemployment picture worsened slightly last month, but improved in October from the same time last year, suggesting a continued recovery.

The jobless rate stood at 12.2 percent in October, up from a revised 11.9 percent in September, but lower than the 13.3 percent of a year ago, according to figures released Friday by the state's Employment Development Department.

Related Info

October unemployment rate by city

Arvin: 32 percent

Bakersfield: 8.5 percent

California City: 9.6 percent

Delano: 30.8 percent

Maricopa: 12.9 percent

McFarland: 25.3 percent

Ridgecrest: 6.9 percent

Shafter: 21.7 percent

Taft: 12 percent

Tehachapi: 7.6 percent

Wasco: 22.6 percent

Source: Employment Development Department

"As you look at the history of our unemployment rate, you are going to see little peaks and valleys," said Bill Stevenson, the acting director of Employers' Training Resource, a Career Services Center partner.

The numbers tell Abbas Grammy, an economics professor at Cal State Bakersfield, that Kern is on the path to recovery from the national and statewide recessions. He noted that the county's unemployment rate slowly declined from 15 percent in January to 12.2 percent last month.

The major job growth has been in the private sector, Grammy wrote in an email, led by leisure and hospitality, while the major source of decline is state government jobs.

From the perspective of the Kern Economic Development Corp.'s Cheryl Scott, it's encouraging to see Kern holds up well against other valley counties.

"When you look at how we are compared to the rest of the Central Valley, we are doing very well. And holding steady is not a bad thing right now," said the vice president of the organization, which works to bring businesses and jobs to the area.

Just Thursday she attended a California summit held by the Milken Institute, and it was "really encouraging for us."

Indeed, Kern's numbers are better than others'. Non-seasonally adjusted October unemployment rates for other counties included Madera at 12.5 percent; Fresno and Kings at 13.9; and Tulare and Merced at 14.7.

Among the noteable data in Kern:

* The county lost 2,300 farm jobs in the last month, tied to the changing agricultural seasons. But farm jobs declined by 1,700 year-over-year.

* The county gained 2,000 government jobs in the last month, beginning to reverse the loss of 1,100 such jobs over the last year.

"You see that as private business is hiring, government is putting people back to work too," Stevenson said. As the economy grows a little stronger, and tax dollars come in at a higher rate, government can refill some jobs, he said.

Grammy elaborated on two areas of "volatility" in the data.

"They are, as expected, the farming industry due to its seasonality nature, and public education due to uncertainty in its state budgetary allocation," Grammy wrote. "While Kern County will continue to rely on farming, the passage of Proposition 30 should help stabilize employment in public education."

Scott pointed out other significant data for Kern. The mining and logging sector, which includes oil industry jobs, saw a decline of 800 jobs year-over-year. There was no change in the last month. Scott said it's possible there is some slowing in oil exploration right now as companies finish up their fiscal year.

The educational and health services sector saw an increase of 1,100 jobs year-over-year, and 200 in the last month. Scott expects continued growth in health jobs locally as the Affordable Care Act is implemented, and locally as the AIS Cancer Center at San Joaquin Community Hospital opens and adds positions.

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