Stanislaus County’s unemployment rate took a solid step down during May, dropping to 11.1 percent. Compare that with April, when 12.2 percent of willing workers couldn’t find a job.
The state’s Employment Development Department statistics released Friday show Stanislaus is making steady progress in its long pull out of the recession.
Four years ago, nearly 17 percent of the county’s labor force was out of work, but unemployment has been edging downward steadily since then.
Eight years ago, when home construction was booming in Stanislaus, the unemployment rate was 7.8 percent. Then the housing market collapsed and unemployment soared.
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Even during good times, Stanislaus’ employment rate fluctuates depending on the month. Because of seasonal jobs in agriculture and food processing, the county’s unemployment traditionally has risen during winter and spring months and declined during summer and fall.
Those employment fluctuations have been narrowing in recent years, the workforce data show. That’s likely because the number of nonseasonal jobs has been increasing.
Transportation and warehousing jobs, for instance, have increased by more than 34 percent the past four years. That’s 2,000 additional jobs in the county.
That’s not the case for farm jobs. This May, there were 1,000 fewer people working on Stanislaus farms than during May 2013. That was a 6 percent drop.
The state’s employment statistics also show Stanislaus’ total labor force has shrunk. There were about 2,500 fewer workers last month – including those with and without jobs – than there were a year earlier.
That explains why the number of unemployed people declined by 4,000, while the number of those with jobs increased about 1,600.
Much of California has recovered more quickly than the Northern San Joaquin Valley. Unemployment statewide in May was 7.1 percent, and it was 6.1 percent nationwide.
May’s unemployment rate was 12.5 percent in Merced County, 10.3 percent in San Joaquin County and 7.6 percent in Tuolumne County.