Unemployment figures show signs of slight economic improvement

FRESNO, Calif.

"I've been out of a job about six months now and it's kind of difficult," said Mary Long.

Long, a single mother of three, is looking for a clerical job. The prospects for her and the others at the Employment Development Office may be getting better.

"On the positive side year over we are seeing some good things happen," said Labor Market Analyst Steve Gutierrez.

He says despite the usual winter slump, the number of people working this year is up over the same time last year.

-- Fresno County: 13.6 percent, down 1.9 percent
-- California: 8.1 percent, down 1.4 percent
-- United States: 6.7 percent, down 1.3 percent

Fresno County's 13.6 percent rate in January is nearly two points lower than last year. It's still nearly 6 percent higher than the statewide rate and double the national rate.

Regional counties all remain in the double digits, with Merced the highest at 16 percent.

-- Mariposa: 11 percent
-- Madera: 12 percent
-- Kings: 15 percent
-- Tulare: 15 percent
-- Merced: 16 percent

But Gutierrez says things are improving in key areas.

"Trade, transportation and utilities are seeing job gains. Also leisure and hospitality are seeing some good job gains," he said.

Teachers, government employees and health care are also seeing more jobs. Construction hiring is also up.

In Fresno County, the city with the lowest unemployment rate is in the suburban community of Clovis, with just over 7 percent. The highest is in the farming community of Mendota, where nearly 37 percent, or 1,700 people, are out of a job. The level in Mendota and other farming communities is expected to climb as the full impact of the drought takes hold by summer.

Unemployment rate by city:

-- Clovis: 7.3 percent (3,200 unemployed)
-- Fresno: 12.8 percent (30,000 unemployed)
-- Mendota: 36.5 percent (1,700 unemployed)

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