Fresno County’s impressive employment rebound continued in May, as the county’s unemployment rate dropped to 8.5 percent, compared with 9.9 percent in May 2015. The year-over-year drop in the unemployment rate marked 57 months of consistent decreases in joblessness for the county.
Fueled mostly by seasonal job growth in the farm industry, there were 10,700 new jobs in Fresno County in May and the unemployment rate improved from 9.6 percent in April.
April and May have been the first two months of single-digit unemployment rates this year.
The drop in unemployment for May is typical for this time of the year, said Steven Gutierrez, a labor analyst with the state Employment Development Department.
“This is normally the drop that we’re going to see this time of the year,” Gutierrez said. “The surge of activity in farms, food packing and food manufacturing will probably continue to add jobs through the summer.”
Of the monthly net gain of 10,700 jobs reported in May, 9,700 were from the farm industry.
Another big gainer was the leisure/hospitality sector. “This is normally a strong period as hotels and restaurants gear up for summer tourism,” Gutierrez said.
Government and manufacturing also reported gains, while professional/business services, educational/health services and trade/transportation and utilities posted losses.
There was an increase of 14,000 jobs between May of 2015 and 2016, of which 3,200 were in the farm industry. Nonfarm employment gained 10,800 jobs over the same period.
Year-over-year growth was the highest for the government sector at 3,900 jobs. Education/health services posted 2,400 more jobs for the year, which Gutierrez said was expected due to the aging population in the county.
Trade/transportation and utilities, which encompasses retail trade, grew by 3,100 jobs from May 2015 to 2016. Gutierrez said he expects retail to continue to grow.
“It would have been nice if that Nordstrom’s would have come through, but it looks like that’s going to be on hold for a little while,” Gutierrez said of the planned e-commerce warehouse, which was expected to employ around 1,000 people in the central San Joaquin Valley. Initially city officials projected the center would be open in 2018, but Nordstrom executives recently said the center wouldn’t open until after 2020.
The county unemployment decrease outpaced both the state and rest of the country. Statewide, the May unemployment rate was 5.2 percent, a decrease of 0.1 percent from April. Nationally, there was a decline of 0.3 percent to 4.7 percent.
Around the Valley, monthly unemployment decreased 1.1 percent to 8.5 percent in Madera County; 1.4 percent down to 9.7 percent in Merced County; 1.4 percent down to 8.6 percent in Kings County; and down 1.3 percent to 9.5 percent in Tulare County. In all counties, the farm industry accounted for the majority of the job growth.