While the nation’s unemployment rate dipped to 6.1% in June, which was heralded as substantial progress, the jobless rate in several of cities in California is double, or even triple, this national number. Because of the dynamics of the economy in this region, that is unlikely to improve, even with the help of state or federal government programs.
The unemployment rate in El Centro was 21.1% in May. It has the unfortunate distinction of being the largest city in Imperial Country, which is at the center of the agricultural part of the region’s economy. Drought has battered the industry, which employs roughly half of the county’s residents. Forecasts have the drought in the area persisting for years, if water cannot be pumped in from other places.
Farther north, the unemployment rate in Yuba City is 13%. It is also an agriculture center. The jobs situation there has become so difficult that the largest employers in the area are now the state and local governments.
Merced, where unemployment was 12.5% in May, is not far south of Yuba City. Visalia-Porterville, where unemployment is 11.6% is close by as well, as are Hanford-Corcoran, where the unemployment rates is 11.2%; Modesto, where it is 11.1%; Fresno where it is 10.5%; and Stockton where the figure is 10.3%. Eight of the U.S. cities with the highest unemployment rates are located within this area. Several of these cities, primarily Stockton, have been part of the huge real estate collapse that happened throughout much of California, putting people in several industries, particularly construction, out of work.
The extent to which the problems these cities face are beyond what they can repair themselves is the extent to which unemployment will persist in them long term, well into this decade, and perhaps into next.