In October, San Joaquin County saw the biggest drop in unemployment rates since August, but experts caution that with 94% of the state in the purple tier, those numbers could increase over the winter.

“I think we should be concerned for sure,” said Jeffrey Michael, director of the Center for Business and Policy Research at University of the Pacific.

“This data is from the second week in October, and it’s about the best time we’ve had since the pandemic hit us,” he said. “It was the lowest level of virus activity, but things have become considerably worse since then. I expect to see a stall in those numbers declining.”

In early October, the county had just entered the red tier of the state’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy, meaning transmission of the COVID-19 virus was substantial, but not widespread.

On Monday, Gov. Gavin Newsom assigned the county, as well as 40 others across California, back to the most restrictive tier, calling for restaurants to return to outdoor-only or take-pout service, and calling for retail and shopping centers to reduce customer capacity to 25%.

Earlier in the week, Lodi business owners such as Jim Murdaca said while he weren’t happy about the new tier assignment, he was willing to reduce capacity to help stop the spread of the virus.

Murdaca said he was hoping he would not have to lay-off or furlough Pietro’s employees like he had to do in March when the pandemic began.

The jobless rate in the county was 10% last month, a 1.4% drop from September, according to the latest numbers from the state’s Employment Development Department.

The October decline is the largest since rates dropped by 3.3% from July to August.

Much like the previous two months, the trade, transportation and utilities sector saw the largest increase in jobs, with 1,000 positions added in October. The educational and health services sector saw an additional 700 jobs, while the professional and business services sector, along with the leisure and hospitality sector both saw increases of 600 jobs.

Three sectors — farming, manufacturing and government — saw 600, 400 and 500 jobs lost, respectively, in October.

Michael said the job losses in the farming and manufacturing industries are typical for this time of year, as peak time for activity, such as harvesting and packaging, is in late August and September. With the colder temperatures moving into the San Joaquin Valley, there is less crop to harvest until the spring, and less product to package, he said.

Retail and restaurants typically have the largest seasonal employment increases, but with the county back in the purple tier and residents encouraged to stay home as much as possible, Michael said he was unsure if businesses will be hiring more employees.

“These have been the hardest hit sectors by the virus, and I expect their employment opportunities will be dramatically less this year,” he said. “There will be some secondary jobs available like couriers and stock pickers, but don’t expect more clerks or customer-oriented positions available this year.”

With a labor force of 29,800 and 2,500 out of work in October, Lodi had the third-highest unemployment rate among the county’s seven incorporated cities at 8.5%.

Stockton remained at the top of the unemployed list, with a labor force of 133,600 and 16,000 out of work for a jobless rate of 12%. Manteca’s unemployment rate was 8.6%.

The county had a total labor force of 330,200, with 32,900 unemployed, according to the California Employment Development Department.

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