Wednesday, 04 October 2023

Unemployment up, but rates may be leveling off, notes official

LAKE COUNTY – Lake County's unemployment rate hit 10 percent for September, the highest rate for that month in a dozen years.


However, Dennis Mullins of the Employment Development Department's Labor Market Information Division's North Coast Region said that, looking at the county's employment trends, he believes rates should start to drop soon.


September's 10-percent rate was up 0.2 percent from August's 9.8 percent, noted Mullins, and 2.4 percent above the September 2007 rate of 7.6 percent.


At 10.0 percent, Lake ranked 49th among the state’s 58 counties, said Mullins.


Neighboring county rates included 8.8 percent for Colusa, 6.4 percent for Mendocino, 9.4 percent for Glenn, 6.9 percent for Yolo, 5.2 percent for Napa and 5.8 percent for Sonoma, according to Employment Development Department statistics.


Marin had the lowest rate in the State at 4.7 percent and Imperial County had the highest with 24.5 percent, Mullins said.


The comparable California and U.S. rates were 7.5 and 6.0 percent, respectively, he added.


The highest unemployment rate recorded in Lake County so far this year was 10.5 percent, which it reached in January, as Lake County News has reported. March and July both recorded 10.2-percent unemployment rates.


Mullins reported that year-over job growth in Lake County was led by trade, transportation and utilities, which added 80 jobs; followed by private educational and health services, 70 jobs; and government, 30 jobs.


At the same time, year-over job losses occurred in leisure and hospitality, which led decliners by dropping 90 jobs, followed by natural resources, mining and construction, declining 40, other services which lost 20, and 10 lost jobs each for information and financial activities, he said.


The farm, manufacturing, and professional and business services had no change over the past year, Mullins noted.


From August to September, statistics show that the county lost a total of 560 jobs in all industries, with 530 coming in the farming sector alone; that period coincided with the end of the local pear season. Other sectors such as retail; trade, transportation and utilities; and transportation, warehousing and utilities lost jobs during that time, Mullins reported.


One big jump was in local and state government jobs, with 200 of those added from August to September, statistics show.


Mullins said that rural counties this year appeared to have eclipsed the higher unemployment rates they suffered in late 2001 after the country was hit by an economic downturn.


In 2001, Lake County's average unemployment rate was 7.1 percent, which rose to 8.3 percent in 2002 and 9.2 percent in 2003, according to Employment Development Department numbers.


By 2004, the numbers started to drop as part of a natural cycle, Mullins said.


And, indeed, the 2004 average rate dropped to 9.1 percent, lower than the previous year despite recording an 11.3-percent unemployment rate in January of that year, a rate which it hadn't seen since 1998.


The average unemployment numbers show that 2005 and 2006 also were better, at 8 percent and 7.7 percent, respectively.


Then, in 2007, the numbers began to climb again, rising to 8.5 percent. If this year's numbers continue on their current trend, the 2008 average is likely to be higher.


But Mullins said it's important to balance the tough economic news with an understanding of the trend.


Looking back further, Mullins said the county went through a cycle of dropping employment and a sagging economy in the early 1990s, and it took about five years to move through that trend.


“We're in a similar type of cycle,” he said, adding that Lake County is only about a year into that trend.


While Lake County's unemployment rate is high, Mullins said it appears to be peaking, which means it should begin to decline over the next five years as part of another recovery cycle.


The very seasonal nature of Lake County's economy – with agriculture and tourism important factors – makes for more notable employment trends, with spring usually showing better employment rates, he said.


Mullins also pointed out that Lake County actually gained 10 jobs in September 2008 over the same month last year, reaching 15,320 private industry jobs. At the same time, Mendocino County's much larger employment pool lost 530 jobs, falling from 33,270 to 32,740, with manufacturing hardest hit. That same sector in Lake County was unchanged.


Adding jobs as Lake County did, Mullins added, is out of the ordinary for the state right now.


Also notable is that Lake County's civilian labor force grew by 820 over the past year, said Mullins, while Mendocino's only grew 290.


“Comparing Lake to Mendocino kind of gives you some perspective,” he said.


Across the state, the housing and financial sectors have been hardest hit when it comes to job loss, said Mullins.


He said that when the housing bubble burst in the last few years, the impact on housing and construction reverberated through the rest of the economy as jobs were lost and sales slowed.


Mullins added that California's counties are following state and national economic and employment trends.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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