Monday, 20 May 2024

Lake County's unemployment rate jumps to 16 percent

LAKE COUNTY – Lake County's unemployment rate reached the highest level in decades, jumping to 16 percent in January, according to a state report released Thursday.

The Employment Development Department's (EDD) monthly unemployment report showed that the county's unemployment spiked from 13.8 percent in December to 16 percent in January, giving it a rank of 47 – it's tied with Stanislaus – among the state's 58 counties.

Marin County had the state's lowest unemployment rate, with 6.6 percent.

In January of 2008, Lake County's unemployment rate was 10.9 percent, with 2,590 unemployed local workers. But this past January, the number of unemployed rose to 3,990, according to preliminary EDD numbers.

California's current unemployment rate is 10.6 percent, with the nation's rate at 8.5 percent.

The news came as a shock to local officials, including county Chief Administrative Officer Kelly Cox, who said he didn't remember such a high rate before.

Neither did Lakeport Regional Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Officer Melissa Fulton. “In the 20 years I've lived here, I've never seen anything approaching 16 percent.”

Supervisor Jim Comstock said he had been concerned when the state's overall unemployment rate was reported to be just over 10 percent last week.

EDD's historical unemployment data for Lake County shows 16 percent to be the highest unemployment rate going back to 1990, the earliest numbers they have available in their online statistical database. In February of 1993, the county's unemployment was 15.8 percent.

An EDD labor market official couldn't be reached on Thursday to find out many years it's been since 16 percent unemployment was seen locally.

Comstock said he's seeing a lot of businesses shutting down in his south county district, especially in Middletown.

Cox added that those strains on businesses are everywhere throughout the county.

Fulton said December and January are typically slower months for the local economy because of its agricultural and tourism base.

She said she's not aware of many more businesses closing, but she knows many people have been laid off because of the business slowdown. Fulton thinks the local economy's growing unemployment is more a matter of employers scaling back on overhead to stay afloat.

“Everybody is just trimming as close to the bone as they can to keep the doors open,” she said.

From the local government standpoint, Cox has serious concerns of his own.

“The higher the unemployment, the greater the impact on our revenues,” said Cox.

Sales tax and property tax particularly are expected to be impacted, he said. “If people don't have jobs, they're spending less money.”

Cox said it's very frustrating that there are so many forces affecting the economy that local government can't control.

“We're able to handle this better than most counties,” Cox said.

The county also is expected to feel the impact in another way – as more people are out of work, they're likely to use the county's social services, which will cause the county government's costs to rise, he said.

“Those caseloads are going to be up when the revenue is going down,” Cox explained.

Cox said the county is trying to give as much work as possible to local vendors and contractors to keep more of its $201 million budget going into the local economy as possible.

Snapshots of specific industries and the region

Looking at specific sectors within the local economy, the industrial category of natural resources, mining and construction has lost 16.4 percent of its workforce over the last year, followed by goods producing, which lost 11 percent. Other sectors within the top five for declines are durable goods, 9.1 percent; information, 7.1 percent; and state government, 6.3 percent.

Industries showing the biggest employment gains included other services, 10.3 percent; federal government, 7.7 percent, an improvement that may be linked to recruitment for the 2010 Census; nondurable goods, 4.5 percent; local government, 1.1 percent, which accounts for approximately 40 jobs; and the overall government category, 1.0 percent.

Lake's neighboring counties also are seeing impacts.

Colusa County has the state's highest unemployment, at 26.7 percent for January, up from 22.1 percent in December, which gives it the state's highest unemployment rate.

In Yolo County, unemployment is at 11.6 percent, compared to 9.7 percent in December, ranking it No. 26. Mendocino County's unemployment rose from 8.8 percent in December to 10.8 percent in January, giving it a rank of No. 22.

Sonoma and Napa counties seem to be doing better than other counties in the region.

Sonoma has the ninth lowest unemployment statewide, with its January rate at 8.6 percent, up from 7.3 in December. Napa, ranking just ahead of Sonoma at No. 8, has a January unemployment rate of 8.5, up from December's 7.3 percent.

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


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