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Kern County sees slight improvement in the labor market, should see improving pay scales

"There is reason to be optimistic"
Help Wanted Sign (FILE)
Posted at 5:18 PM, Jan 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-24 21:25:40-05

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — Governor Gavin Newsom recently stated that since February of 2021, California has created nearly 1 million jobs which is greatly helping the state's economic recovery. As the pandemic economically affected various workplace industries, the state is headed towards pre-pandemic levels in the labor markets.

Richard Gearhart, an associate professor at California State University Bakersfield said that as the state enters the stages of recovery from the recession, the state unemployment rate has dropped.

“We started from the depths of the recession, but we’re improving. We wanted to see improvements in the December economic numbers and we did see dramatic improvements.”

Governor Newsom stated last Friday that California created 25 percent of the nation’s new jobs in December, along with an unemployment rate decrease to 6.5 percent.

“I think right now probably the most heartening thing about this economic recovery is that we’re seeing workers have the power that they haven’t had before.," explained Gearhart. "Especially lower-wage and lower-skilled workers.”

According to the Employment Development Department, the unemployment rate in Kern County was 7.7-percent in December 2021, up from a revised 7.4-percent in November 2021. And while that change of 0.3 percent is fairly small Gearhart said that Kern County residents should still seek to improve their economic circumstances considering the county’s lower wages.

“It’s beneficial to be searching for a job right now. It’s beneficial to be looking to improve your economic circumstances. That’s really important in Kern County, where we get paid a much lower wage than the state average. A lot of workers tend to be more blue-collar, tend to work in the service industry, and so they earn closer to the minimum wage.”

“What it means if there’s all these unfilled jobs is that businesses are going to raise their wages," continued Gearhart. "They’re going to offer better starting pay. They might offer better non-wage benefits, maybe better health insurance, an increase in vacation time, paid sick leave, those sorts of things.”

Gearhart added that although the state is still affected by the rate of unemployment, there is reason to be optimistic.

“There’s about 400,000 workers who just haven’t returned to the labor force in California since the start of the pandemic. We got more people in the labor force, which is what we want to do. We want people looking for jobs, we want people with jobs.”

Gearhart continued that in addition to the economic hit of the pandemic, consumers are now shifting the way that they spend their money by prioritizing more ways of saving. Regardless of if they are receiving unemployment benefits or are still employed.