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Recent rise in unemployment in Kern County shows cycle getting smaller

“We are seeing some of the cycle get smaller."
Unemployment
Posted at 4:28 PM, Mar 16, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-16 22:13:39-04

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — The latest data shows unemployment rose in Kern County from 7.5% in December 2021 to 8.8% in January 2022.

There are about 5,000 more people considered unemployed in Kern County this month compared to last month, but an economics professor explained that although we never want to see the unemployment rate rise, it misses another piece of the puzzle.

“Unemployment is calculated as the number of people who don’t have jobs but are looking for jobs, and that is kind of the key. There are now 5,300 more people who entered the labor force looking for jobs.”



Associate Professor of Economics at CSUB, Richard Gearhart, said the numbers look even better when we think of the situation just a year ago. However, there is something to keep in mind.

“The one issue is, are people entering the labor force looking for jobs because they want a job or with inflation do they need to get a job because they can’t afford rent or something like that. So, this does bear a little watching over the next few months, but for the most part, I was quite pleased with the numbers.”

It is also important to understand Kern County’s historical labor trends.

“The valley as a whole, we have a very cyclical economy. So, right now, we typically see higher unemployment between January and March, so it is a little bit higher in the cycle of unemployment right now,” said Teresa Hitchcock, Assistant County Administrative Officer Over Economic and Workforce Development.

That is because of the deep agriculture industry tied to Kern County, where jobs depend on harvest and times of year but that is slowly changing.

“We are seeing some of the cycles get smaller so I think the diversification of the economy with having warehousing and logistics may be helping with some of that as well,” she added.



Of course, oftentimes you need years of experience for a job but you need a job first to get that experience. That is why organizations around Kern County are creating programs to help people get their foot in the door.

"Internship program which would link students with internships and local businesses so that they can start working and get a feel for which businesses they want to be employed by," explained Hitchcock. "And then we are also going to be talking to CSUB abut a similar program but it would be for on-the-job training."

But Hitchcock said they are not just helping students.

"For people who may have recently lost their job and they find that the skills that they have are not matching up with the things that are currently available in the market we can connect them with skills for free."

These efforts to try and help the incoming and current labor force can be important to bringing people in and keeping them in Kern County.

"Kern County, we don’t have a worker shortage, we just have a quality job shortage where people have not found the right job and we should see unemployment drop dramatically over the next few months," said Gearhart.

Meanwhile, high unemployment rates may give more power to the people.

"Workers have more power than they ever have. Workers have the ability to negotiate a higher pay than they usually earn, better wage, benefits, and now it kind of the best time to find your best job," explained Gearhart.

Hitchcock also explained Kern County needs a healthy labor force that helps attract better-paying companies, which then also encourages workers to stay here. Gearhart added the biggest constraint right now is parents who want to get back to work but can not find child care. That being fixed will help get those unemployment numbers down.

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