Valley Struggles to Overcome Rising Unemployment

FRESNO, Calif.

Most Valley counties saw unemployment rise by two to five percentage points. Here in Fresno, the unemployment rate stands at 16.5%. A few industries are in hiring mode, but experts believe- the numbers will only worsen.

Christopher Holmes hopes this application breaks a four month unemployment streak. He came to the Workforce Connection center in Manchester Mall- applying for customer service jobs. Holmes said, "With economy, with the way things are, there are still jobs out there. There are still careers. Even though things are bad, a person just has to apply themselves and get it going."

Customer service is an industry-showing positive growth in Fresno County. According to the state, the retail sector in Fresno County recently added 1,100 new jobs for the holiday shopping season. Education and health services gained 400 jobs during the past year, but food manufacturing lost 900 jobs this past month.

Steven Gutierrez with the Employment Development Department says from December to March the unemployment rate usually rises because agriculture production slows. Also, retailers will layoff temporary hires after the holiday shopping season ends. Gutierrez said, "Fresno County and basically the San Joaquin Valley are agriculturally based. So once agriculture slows down, construction slows down here, food manufacturing slows down during this time frame."

Since the economy looks bad for Fresno's unemployed, Blake Konczal with Fresno County Work Force Connection recommends people like Holmes expand their skills. Konczal said, "Sometimes it is very difficult if you have worked at the same job for a long time to figure out how the skills in your old job are transferrable to a new job, so we are designed to help to identify what those skills are specifically. "

We also looked at historical data and learned the unemployment rate has been worse. In February 1993, the unemployment rate here in Fresno reached a staggering 19.1%.

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