Seasonal job gains in manufacturing last month helped ease the unemployment rate in Stanislaus County, which saw its first decline in seven months.
The county's jobless rate in April was 10.7 percent, down from 11.3 percent in March, according to state Employment Development Department figures released Friday. Still, it remains more than a percentage point higher than last year's rate of 9 percent.
Springtime dips in unemployment are fairly typical as farmworkers go back to work and food processing firms prepare for the peak season, said Liz Baker, EDD labor market analyst.
The manufacturing industry in Stanislaus County gained about 300 jobs in April. Most other sectors remained unchanged or recorded small spurts in hiring. Only the trade sector lost jobs, down 100 positions from the previous month.
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"It is not all bleak," Baker said. "There are industries that are doing well, despite changes in the economy."
San Joaquin County recorded a similar trend. The jobless rate dropped to 9.6 percent in April, down from 10.2 percent the previous month. It remains higher than the April 2007 rate of 8 percent.
Farming and manufacturing made up the bulk of the job gains in San Joaquin County last month, Baker said, mostly in nondurable goods such as food processing.
"We're starting to see a change," Baker said. "After the Heinz plant closed (in Tracy in 1998), we saw a decline in those types of jobs, but now we are seeing that come back around.
"We're changing what we are processing. That's a good sign. Those are high-wage jobs -- sometimes union with benefits -- so it is good to have those head-of-household jobs that people can live off of."
Merced County's unemployment rate dropped to 12.3 percent last month, down from 13.6 percent in March.
The foothill counties of Tuolumne, Calaveras and Mariposa also recorded lower unemployment rates in April, though all were higher than the previous year's estimates.
California's unemployment rate held steady at 6.2 percent in April, as job losses in the construction and banking sectors were offset by strengths in other pockets of the economy.
California shed a negligible 800 of its nearly 15.2 million nonfarm jobs last month, after a revised loss of 2,100 jobs in March, according to the EDD.
The unemployment rate was unchanged from March, but was up a percentage point from April 2007. A little more than 1.1 million Californians were looking for work in April, down 1,000 from March but up 192,000 from the same period last year.
The state is encouraging people to apply for unemployment insurance at www.edd.ca.gov.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
Bee staff writer Christina Salerno can be reached at email@example.com or 238-4574.