Monday, April 23, 2012
Strong S.J. County jobs report/The Record
Number of employed residents up 5% in one year
San Joaquin County's unemployment rate rose slightly in March, but that was nearly the only sour note in a state report that found strong jobs growth in nearly every sector of the county's economy.
A survey of county households estimated the number of employed county residents last month hit 255,200, a gain of 1,700 jobs, or 0.7 percent compared with February.
However, the March jobless rate was 16.7 percent, up from a revised 16.5 percent in February, because the number of unemployed residents - job seekers who said they were unable to find work - rose relatively faster, up by 2.4 percent month to month, the state Employment Development Department reported Friday.
"We just have more people coming out and saying, 'I'm willing to look for work,' " said Nati Martinez, an EDD labor market analyst.
Statewide employment figures shows a similar trend as California's employment rate, not adjusted for seasonal variation, stood at an estimated 11.5 percent in March, up from a revised 11.4 percent in February. Here, too, the rise in job seekers outstripped employment gains.
San Joaquin County's employment picture looks even stronger over the past year. Since March 2010, when unemployment stood at 18.1 percent, the number of employed county residents has risen by 12,000, or 5 percent.
Jeffrey Michael, director of the Business Forecasting Center at University of the Pacific, was left somewhat speechless by that gain.
"I can't come up with an adjective," he said. "Five percent is really large growth."
He has been predicting San Joaquin County would see 2 to 2.5 percent job growth this year. But with March results coming on top of January estimates showing a 3 percent year-over gain and a 4 percent jump reported in February, Michael said he may have to revise his upcoming quarterly forecast.
"I didn't want to leap to any conclusions based on the last couple of months, but this one is really strong," he said. "It's encouraging."
Nearly all industry sectors showed strong year-over-year growth, with trade, transportation and utilities leading with a gain of 2,800 jobs, or nearly 6 percent, in March. That included 1,400 more retail jobs, 800 transportation and warehousing positions and 600 wholesale trade jobs than a year ago.
Private schools and health care employers added 1,700 workers to area payrolls in March from the year before with most of the gains, 1,500, in health care.
Manufacturing added 1,600 jobs in the past year, including 1,200 in nondurable goods production.
Leisure and hospitality employers added 900 jobs over the year, with nearly all - 800 - in restaurants and bars.
Even the government sector posted a year-to-year gain of 600 jobs, which Michael said seemed suspect. He expects future employment estimates to revise that number downward.
But even if that were to happen, he said, "That's not enough at all to change the strong pattern of growth."
Martinez noted her spreadsheet of the major industrial sectors showed none with job losses, which appear in red ink.
"It's so beautiful to see everything in black on my analysis sheet," she said.
San Joaquin County stands apart from its Valley neighbors, Michael said. Over the past year to March, Stanislaus County posted a 1.5 percent loss in nonfarm jobs based on a payroll survey, and Sacramento County was down slightly, by 0.3 percent.
"We're really standing out amongst the neighbors, for once," he said.
In fact, among the state's metropolitan areas, San Joaquin County's 5.1 percent gain in nonfarm jobs was the best.
"We've got the biggest year-over-year gain of anyone in percentage terms," Michael said.
More detailed information about state and county employment figures can be found online at labormarketinfo.edd.ca.gov and by clicking on the "What's New" link.
Contact reporter Reed Fujii at (209) 546-8253 or email@example.com.