Fresno County’s unemployment rate in March was estimated at 10.3 percent – the lowest it’s been in March in 10 years. And it was hiring in government that led job gains in the county on both a month-to-month and year-over-year basis.
Figures released Friday by the state Employment Development Department reported that the number of jobless people in the county grew by about 500 between February and March. While that nudged the unemployment rate upward from February’s 10.2 percent, March represented a continuation of 66-month trend of rates that are lower than they were a year earlier. The county’s rate was 11 percent in March 2016.
“The last time we saw March this low was in 2007, when the rate was 9.3 percent,” said Steven Gutierrez, a labor market consultant for the EDD in Fresno. Since 2007, the unemployment rate has swung as high as 18.4 percent in February 2010 to a post-recession low of 8.2 percent last September.
Gutierrez said the month-over-month unemployment rate is part of a typical seasonal swing in which farm jobs – the industry sector that represents employment for more than 40,000 people in Fresno County – remain in a winter lull before activity kicks up again in the spring. “The first quarter of the year is when we see unemployment rates at their highest in the year,” he said. “But April is when we see agriculture start to pick up again.”
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Between February and March, farm employment fell by 400 jobs in Fresno County, to about 40,400 workers.
The last time we saw March this low was in 2007, when the rate was 9.3 percent.
Steven Gutierrez, Fresno labor market consultant for the state Employment Development Department
On a countywide basis, the number of unemployed was estimated at 46,100, while the number of people working was 402,100. But both the unemployment rate and the numbers of jobless people are based on the official estimate of the labor force – people who are available and looking for work. It does not include those who aren’t seeking employment, including students, retirees, or “discouraged workers” who are often long-term unemployed who have given up looking for a job.
California’s statewide unemployment rate ticked down from 5 percent in February to 4.9 percent in March, while the national rate fell from 4.7 percent in February to 4.5 percent last month.
In Fresno County, Gutierrez said government agencies represented the sector with the largest job gains, adding 1,800 jobs between February and March. On a year-over-year basis, there were about 3,100 more government jobs filled last month compared to March 2016. “The (month-to-month) job growth can be attributed to the arrival of income-tax season with a ramp-up in seasonal hiring” by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service’s tax processing center in Fresno.
The construction industry, which was one of the hardest hit by job losses in the recession in 2009-10, reported a year-over gain of 800 jobs from March 2016 to March 2017, and a month-to-month gain of 300 jobs compared to February 2017. Total employment in construction was estimated at 16,200 in March.