Fresno County’s unemployment rate increased slightly between February and March to 10.6 percent, but fell to its lowest March level in nine years, according to figures released Friday by the state Employment Development Department.
“The last time we saw the March unemployment rate this low was March 2007 at 9.3 percent,” said Steven Gutierrez, a labor market analyst with the EDD office in Fresno.
In February, Fresno’s jobless rate was 10.4 percent. The rate in March 2015 was 11.7 percent.
The area’s largest month-over-month employment gain came in the educational and health services sector, which added 800 jobs last month – 600 in education and 200 in health – rebounding from a loss of 1,600 positions in January, Gutierrez said.
Government and professional services each added 700 and 600 jobs, respectively.
“Some of the job growth can be attributed to the arrival of income tax season, with the federal government ramping up seasonal hiring and tax preparation businesses adding tax preparers to handle more business ahead of the April 18 tax filing deadline,” Gutierrez said. “Normally, we see that uptick during this period of time.”
Year-over-year increases came in the trade, transportation and utilities industries, with 3,600 more jobs compared to the same time a year ago. Retail trade, a subsector of this category, continues to be a consistent contributor of jobs, with 1,900 more positions year-over-year.
10.6 percentFresno County March jobless rate
“It’s good to see continued increases in the service industries like retail because it means consumers and businesses are willing to spend more money,” Gutierrez said.
As the population ages, the health care industry grows. Education and health services posted 3,400 jobs in March compared to a year earlier. The sector has added 9,900 jobs so far this year.
On the down side, farm employment fell by 200 positions and leisure and hospitality trimmed 600 jobs. The decrease in farming is a normal seasonal change, Gutierrez said, while wet weather early this year affected leisure and hospitality.
It’s good to see continued increases in the service industries like retail because it means consumers and businesses are willing to spend more money.
Steven Gutierrez, EDD labor market analyst
The unemployment rate and the numbers of people counted as jobless are based on estimates of people who want jobs and are available to work but cannot find it. The figures don’t include students or retirees who aren’t looking for work, nor does it count people dubbed “discouraged workers” – often chronic or long-term unemployed who have given up their search for work.
The statewide unemployment rate fell to 5.4 percent last month from 5.5 percent in February. Nationwide, the jobless rate increased to 5 percent.