For Many Cities, Unemployment Still Over 7%

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The unemployment rate fell to 4.3% in July, one of the lowest levels in years. However, there are parts of the country were the jobs situation is still at Great Recession levels. There are few signs the situation will get better.

Most of the cities with very high unemployment are in California’s interior valley. In El Centro, the rate is 20.8%, the highest in the nation. The rate in Visalia-Porterville is 9.9%. In Bakersfield it is 9.5%. In Merced and Hanford-Corcoran it is 9.2%, and in Fresno 8.9%. Ironically, many of these areas are not far south of San Jose, one of the wealthiest cities in the United States.

Fresno is a good example of the racial makeup of these cities. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports its population at 522,053. Of these, 46.9% are counted as Hispanic or Latino. The poverty rate is 29.8%. Median household income is $41,531, more than $10,000 below the national average. The population of the city has skyrocketed. It was 217,491 back in 1980.

Much of the work in the area is agriculture based. The sector was hammered by the drought that covered most of California. Most of the state is drought fee, but not Fresno. The Fresno Bee reported on April 17:

The rest of California is done with the drought, but not Fresno, Kings, Tulare and Tuolumne counties, Gov. Jerry Brown decided Friday. The reason is as much about money as it is about water.

Keeping those four counties under a drought declaration ensures money continues to flow for emergency drinking water projects to help water-short communities address dry or contaminated wells, the governor’s order said.

“It’s really a tool for these communities that have a water shortage so they can get technical and financial assistance,” said Max Gomberg, director of climate and conservation for the State Water Resources Control Board. “There are still communities where the impacts from the drought are still being felt and we want to continue to provide state assistance to them.”

Given these circumstances, the unemployment rate in cities in the area could be double the national rate for some time.