For the last few months, the decline in San Joaquin County’s unemployment has been incremental, with each monthly dip about 1 percentage point.

But August saw the largest drop in the jobless rate since the COVID-19 pandemic began, according to the latest numbers from the California Employment Development Department.

In its latest monthly jobs report, and the county’s unemployment rate was 11.9% for the month of August, down from the 14.7% reported in July.

County unemployment rates for June and May were 15.8% and 16.6%, respectively. Numbers in April, when the county’s economy was initially hit by the pandemic, were at 18%.

Jeff Michael, director of the Center for Business Policy and Research at University of the Pacific, said the drop in jobless rates is a sign of a steady employment growth in the county.

“The month-to-month growth has been pretty good,” he said. “And as typical, it’s led by transportation, trades and utilities, as well as education and schools, which went down unbelievably far in July.”

Education and schools fall under the government sector, Michael said, and in July, that industry saw a job loss of 5,600 after a job loss of 1,200 in June. For August, the government sector saw 3,100 jobs added.

The trade, transportation and utilities industries saw a total of 1,800 new jobs in August, while the education and health industries saw an increase of 700 positions.

Of the 13 employment sectors in the county, only the Information industry, which declined by 100 jobs, saw a loss of jobs in August, according to the EDD.

Lodi remains in the middle of the pack among the county’s seven incorporated cities, with a jobless rate of 9.7%, down from 12.7% in July. With a labor force of 28,900, Lodi reported only 2,800 people out of work.

Stockton remains the city with highest the unemployment rate at 13.6% for August, while Tracy reported 11.3% and Manteca 11%.

The county’s labor force for August was 322,100, and a total of 38,400 were unemployed, according to the EDD.

Michael said the unemployment rate in the county will continue to improve, but most likely at a slow pace.

“Moving into the red tier helps a few enterprises, particularly with the hospitality sector,” he said. “But it still looks pretty incremental. Even as restaurants return to indoor dining, it’s not clear how excited people are about it.”

This week, San Joaquin County advanced from the state’s purple tier to the red tier, allowing several sectors, including restaurants, to move operations back indoors, but at 25% capacity.

“There’s uncertainty and concern not just about COVID, but over finances,” he said. “We haven’t seen any additional government assistance this summer, and the generous expansion of unemployment benefits has expired. That’s added to the decrease in the spending flow.”

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