Unemployment rates ticked up between June and July across the central San Joaquin Valley, but the percentage of the workforce without jobs in each of the Valley’s counties remains lower than a year earlier.
In Fresno County, July’s unemployment rate was reported at 9.6 percent in figures released Friday by the state Employment Development Department. That was a slight uptick from June’s rate of 9.3 percent. But it was the third consecutive month in which the unemployment rate was under 10 percent – the first time that’s happened since the spring of 2008, in the early stages of the recession. It was also the lowest July unemployment rate since 2007, when it was 8.2 percent.
July was also the 47th straight month in which the unemployment rate was lower than the same month a year earlier. The unemployment rate in Fresno County for July 2014 was 11.1%.
A similar pattern – an increase in the unemployment rate between June and July, but lower rates than July 2014 – were reported in neighboring Madera, Merced and Tulare counties. Kings County’s rate fell from June to July and was also lower than a year ago.
“Last month was a little different in the sense that we normally see a little jump in June, but this time June went down and we saw July go up a little bit,” said Steven Gutierrez, an EDD labor market analyst in Fresno. “At the start of the summer, students and some retirees come back into the workforce, so there’s usually a little blip there.” At the same time, when school lets out and public school teachers and staff are off for the summer, it also has the potential to nudge the unemployment rate a bit higher until the new school year begins in August and September, Gutierrez said.
Among industry sectors in the Fresno County, professional-business services – including specialties such as legal, accountancy, engineering, scientific, waste management and other technical services for business clients – reported the largest month-over-month increase, gaining about 1,000 jobs and pushing employment in those fields to 33,800. And from June to July, the construction industry reported an increase of about 500 jobs, pushing total employment in that sector to 13,900 last month —the highest number so far this year, Gutierrez said.
Overall industry employment in July was about 11,000 more than it was in July 2014. Fresno County’s largest year-over-year gains were in trade/transportation/utilities, where 2,700 more jobs were reported than a year ago. About 1,600 of those jobs were in retail. “We’ve had year-over-year growth in retail every month so far this year,” Gutierrez said.
The unemployment rate is based on the percentage of the total workforce (people who are available and willing to work). But workforce figures don’t include people who had stopped looking for work, including retirees, students returning to school or people who have given up their search.
California’s statewide unemployment rate fell from 6.3% in June to 6.2% in July. The national rate last month was 5.3%, unchanged from June.