WASHINGTON: Humboldt County’s unemployment rate rose for the second month in a row in July to 4.9 percent of the workforce, though the rate is slightly less than one year ago, according to California Employment Development Department North Coast Labor Market Consultant Randy Weaver. Weaver said Friday that of the 1,700 unemployed workers added between June and July, about 1,300 were seasonal workers at local schools whose jobs will more than likely return as the new school year begins this month. “They begin laying off their seasonal temporary folks in June. Because they are a large organization, a lot of time the [labor] reporting trickles into July and August,” Weaver said Friday. “What’s ironic about this number happening in August is now they are on the hiring end of things again. I would expect maybe that will hit the books in October.” The remaining 400 jobs consisted of local and state government positions, which Weaver said were primarily related to education and health care.
July’s unemployment rate increased by less than half a percentage point from the 4.5 percent rate recorded in June, according to Weaver. In July 2016, the unemployment rate was 5.2 percent, according to Weaver. Weaver said that a sizeable portion of the local workforce is in seasonal industries, including commercial fishing, forest products and tourism. This seasonal economy can lead to wide fluctuations in employment levels from month to month, Weaver said, but the year-over trend is what gives a better picture of the overall job market. “Humboldt has seen pretty good gains consistently in 2017. Year-over we have been gaining jobs,” Weaver said. “That means there are more openings, more opportunities for workers.” At the same time, Weaver said Humboldt County has seen a slight decrease in the total labor force from about 61,640 in July 2016 to 61,420 in July 2017. “If there are more jobs and fewer people looking, that will pull the [unemployment] number down,” Weaver said.
The past two months of increased unemployment follow two months of record low unemployment throughout the North Coast, including Humboldt County. Locally, unemployment rates were at 4 percent in April and 3.6 percent in May — the lowest rates since at least 1990, according to Weaver. Weaver said the combination of improved statewide employment and the passing years since the recession have given employers more optimism to hire. The state’s unemployment rate also increased from 4.6 percent in June to 5.4 percent in July with about 24,000 more Californians unemployed between the two months, according to the state data. The state’s overall labor force also slightly decreased between the two months by about 25,000 for a total of 18.2 million job holders in July, according to the state data. For the year over, the number of employed Californians has increased by about 140,000 between July 2016 and July 2017, according to the data. The national unemployment rate decreased by a tenth of a percent in July to 4.3 percent, with about 209,000 non-farm jobs being added, according to the California Employment Development Department.