Merced Co unemployment remains high despite improvement

FRESNO, Calif.

That's down from 11.9 percent at the same time last year. Every Valley county also saw at least a one percent drop.

Merced County still has the highest rate at 15.9 percent. It's followed by Tulare County at 15 percent.

Fresno County checked in at 14 percent. Madera and Kings Counties had rates of 13 percent and Mariposa had the lowest rate at 8.8 percent.

Hundreds of people come to Merced County's Worknet office each week for help finding jobs, education, and training. That includes Kendall Ross, who lost his manufacturing position when Arvin Sango closed its Merced auto parts plant in 2010. He's now packing produce to make ends meet.

"Yeah, right now I'm making minimum wage, and it's like a crazy schedule," Ross said.

But he and other job seekers are happy to hear the county's unemployment rate is dropping. It's down to 15.9 percent, a one point one percent decrease from the same time last year.

"I think you have a couple situations here. You have some people who have just stopped looking for work, some who have relocated, and some who have actually gotten jobs here in Merced County," Merced County Worknet Program Manager Michelle Allison said.

In fact, the Employment Development Department says Merced County added 34 hundred jobs from July to August, one of the biggest gains came from government jobs, including teachers being hired for the start of the school year. Trade, transportation, and utilities also added 200 jobs and experts say many of those are truck driving positions.

"We are seeing some new jobs coming into the market and one of the old faithful that's still strong is farm. Agriculture specifically is very strong and should continue to be strong between now and December," E.D.D. Analyst Pedro Vargas said.

E.D.D. Analyst Pedro Vargas says the county's August unemployment rate hasn't been this low since 2009. He sees that as positive news, but points out Merced still has the third highest rate in California.

"The only two other counties that are higher are Imperial and Yuba County, so we still have a lot of ways to go," Vargas said.

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