The unemployment rate in Fresno County lurched upward by a full percentage point between May and June, as the number of people holding jobs was steady but the number of folks looking for work entering the summer grew.
Yet in Fresno County and neighboring central San Joaquin Valley counties, unemployment rates continued a nearly five-year run of long-term improvement: June was the 58th consecutive month in which the jobless rate in Fresno County has been lower than it was a year earlier.
The June unemployment rate was 9.4 percent, up from 8.4 percent in May but below the 9.7 percent rate from June 2015, according to data released Friday by the state Employment Development Department.
Last month also represented the lowest June unemployment rate in the county since 2007, when it was 8.1 percent.
In Fresno County, the month-over-month increase in the unemployment rate was driven by a surge in the number of people in the labor force seeking jobs, including students who are out of class for the summer. The labor force was estimated at 456,300, or about 5,200 more people than in May. The number of employed workers in June was estimated by the state at 413,500, the same number as the prior month.
“Normally we don’t see the labor force uptick like this 1 percentage point; it’s usually only a couple of tenths,” said Steven Gutierrez, a labor market analyst with the EDD in Fresno. “But students are coming back in for the summer, and people who have been out of work get re-energized this time of year, and those are probably the big contributors.”
The unemployment rates and estimates are based on a federal survey of households. California’s statewide unemployment rate was estimated at 5.4 percent in June, up from 5.2 percent in May but down from 6.2 percent in June 2015. Nationally, the jobless rate was reported at 4.9 percent, compared to 4.7 percent in May and 5.3 percent a year ago.
There are national forecasts that back-to-school spending will be on a stock-up cycle this year. That should bode well for retailers heading into the fall.
Steven Gutierrez, a labor market analyst with the EDD in Fresno
California was among six states that saw their unemployment rates climb between May and June, along with Colorado, Nevada, Oregon, Maine and South Dakota.
“California had an increase in the unemployment rate, and so did the national numbers,” Gutierrez said. “One month doesn’t make a trend, but the impression is that job growth is slowing down in California.”
Not reflected in the unemployment figures, however, are people who are not counted as part of the available labor force. That includes retirees, students and “discouraged workers” – often the long-term unemployed who have given up their search for work.
In a broader state survey of employers, several industry sectors reported significant increases in the number of jobs in Fresno County, led by a gain of 1,000 jobs in manufacturing. About 800 of those jobs were reported in food manufacturing, which typically sees a seasonal increase with agricultural production in the region.
Trade/transportation/utilities reported 900 more jobs in June compared to May, with wholesale trade accounting for 500 and retailers adding another 400 jobs. “There are national forecasts that back-to-school spending will be on a stock-up cycle this year,” Gutierrez said. “That should bode well for retailers heading into the fall.”
On a year-over-year basis, the largest increase in jobs in Fresno County was in the government sector. Local government agencies reported adding 3,500 jobs, while state and federal agencies operating in the county each added 300 jobs compared to June 2015. Retailers reported a gain of 2,200 jobs over the past year, and private-sector education and health services grew by 3,900 jobs.
Monthly unemployment in Valley counties
Source: California Employment Development Department