Valley Unemployment Continues to Rise

Fresno, CA Fresno county's unemployment rate now stands at 17%.
Merced county rose to above 20%.
And in Tulare county, the jobless rate is 17.7%.

The numbers are even higher in many South valley towns. Earlimart is Tulare county is an agricultural community plagued by unemployment. Every Friday for the last few months job seekers show up to a resources bus looking for that next paycheck.

Felipe Flores is 26, unemployed and was forced to move back in with his parents when he lost his job in December. "It's hard. It's tough," he said.

Flores, a farm worker in Earlimart, relies on a resource bus to fine tune his resume and apply for jobs. However finding work in Earlimart is nearly impossible especially with job opportunities drying up.

"There's a lot of people getting interviewed at the same time and they're only accepting like three or four people," said Flores.

The March unemployment rate in Earlimart is 44.5%. That is up 1 ½ percentage points from February (43%) and way up from a year ago when it was 32.9%. Job hunters in Fresno, like Argelia Ortiz, face similar uphill battles. Unemployment is 17%.

"It's so hard right now. Everywhere I've gone to apply there's like 20 people in front of us," said Ortiz.

Everyday hundreds of people visit employment development departments like this around the state looking for work.

Labor market consultant Steve Gutierrez said there is some positive news, 600 jobs were created in Fresno between February and March.

"The influence of that would be the tax season. The I.R.S. is here. Also, the census is hiring," said Gutierrez.

Gutierrez and other workforce placement groups are optimistic because summer agriculture jobs are returning.

That's good news to Flores who desperately wants to move out of mom and dad's house and live on his own again!

Labor market firms predict more jobs will be created within the next few months with the help of state infrastructure work and federal stimulus money.

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