Sky-Rocketing Unemployment in Western Fresno County

January 26, 2009 7:41:40 PM PST
Unemployment rates have sky-rocketed in several parts of Fresno County. Perhaps the hardest hit is the city of Mendota.The Mayor of Mendota says their economy is grimmer than others. Unemployment is at its highest there and there appears to be no solution in sight.

Residents lounging around during the work week in Western Fresno County is a common sight during this economic slump. So is the number of stores shut down and spaces available for rent. In fact you won't find a single person who does not think about losing their job in the near future.

"Maybe who knows, maybe in a year or two I will worry," said Mendota's Reyes Aldy.

"We're in a small area and we really don't have much business either," said Daisy Franco of Firebaugh.

"We have a major problem to deal with ... the community," said Mendota Mayor Robert Silva.

Silva is facing the worst unemployment spike in the history of this town at nearly 35% for the month of December. Silva is also a manager at a local market in town where he said fewer and fewer people can afford to shop.

"We're down 20% like all business in Mendota. everybody's down," said Mayor Silva.

Eight miles north Firebaugh is faced with nearly 23% unemployment. City Manager Jose Ramirez said unemployment numbers continue to yo-yo up and down.

"The worst three months that you can find in the year are towards the end of October, November and December," said Ramirez.

City officials in western Fresno County blame the increase in unemployment on the drought and the water delivery cut backs. They say if there's no water in the canals, there's no work in the field.

"Water drought. the worst drought we've had in two years and then the water cut off the allocations to the western water district farmers around this area," said Mayor Silva.

Ramirez said until the water issue is fixed he expects more residents out of a job. "I would call it the perfect storm or compound crisis," he said.

Many of these farm workers are moving up North to Oregon and Washington to find work. City leaders tell Action News the solution is convincing lawmakers to create more water storage.

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