Valley Unemployment Rate at Levels Unseen in Two Decades

March 10, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
The Valley's unemployment rate has risen to levels not seen in nearly two decades. In Merced County, the unemployment rate is a staggering 21.7%, the highest in the Valley. Fresno, Kings, and Tulare Counties are all above 18%.Fresno County's jobless rate is at the highest level since 1993 and up nearly four percentage points since a year ago. The numbers mean jobs are hard to find in the Central Valley and a lot of folks like Jonathan Locke of Fresno are trying to find work.

"Yes I have been actually. I've been looking for a job for three, three and a half months," said Locke.

Coming out of the Workforce Connection Offices at Fresno's Manchester Mall Locke was optimistic something will come up. But with the unemployment rate soaring to a nearly 20 year high the prospects of finding anything seem tough.

In Merced, job seeker Melissa Nyberg said, "I've applied for over 100 jobs, sent out numerous resumes, faxed, mailed them, you name it, I've tried it, and it's really hard right now to find a job."

Job fairs, like one held at Fresno City College on Wednesday attract a lot of job seekers, and while some companies are hiring, Steve Gutierrez of the California Economic Development Department says it's tougher than ever to make the cut. "Right now it's an employer's market out there. There are unfortunately a lot of people that are out of work and looking for work employers are going to be real selective and picky."

The region's biggest job losses came in white collar professional services and government jobs. High paying jobs that are tough to replace. Construction jobs also continued to plunge. Economists are expecting things to pick up ... but not anytime soon.

Pete Weber, co-chairman of the Regional Jobs Initiative agrees, "I think what's going to happen is we're going to see a very, very slow recovery in California and in the Valley."

The only bright spot in the latest jobs report was agriculture. There were actually a few hundred more farming jobs in Fresno County this year compared to last.


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