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Kings County business
County and state jobless rates near record low

Kings County’s jobless rate was 7.5 percent in November, the lowest unemployment rate for any November since 1990 when the state started posting numbers online. The rate actually ticked up slightly from October’s 7.3 percent. On a year-over-year basis, the county's jobless rate fell from 9.5 percent to 7.5 percent with a 21 percent reduction in the number of unemployed in the county, from 5,300 to 4,200.

By contrast, in the depth of the recession in November 2010, Kings County suffered with nearly 10,000 residents unemployed.

Flash forward to today, California as a whole saw a similar positive trend, more jobs and fewer jobless claims.

California’s jobless rate was also at historic lows falling to 4.6 percent in November – a record low in a data series dating back to the beginning of 1976. In November 2016, the state’s unemployment rate was 5.3 percent.

California has now gained a total of 2,734,800 jobs since the economic expansion began in February 2010, says the state.

In related data, the state reported that there were 256,961 people in California receiving regular unemployment insurance benefits during the November survey week. This compares with 299,272 in October and 358,096 in November of last year. At the same time, new claims for unemployment insurance were 36,177 in November, compared with 42,114 in October and 54,252 in November of last year.

"The fact that California’s unemployment rate is at its lowest point since 1976 confirms that the state’s labor market reached full-employment in 2017,” said Robert Kleinhenz, Executive Director of Research at Beacon Economics and the UCR School of Business Center for Forecasting. “Nearly all the unemployment at this point is ‘frictional’, or in other words, due to people leaving their jobs voluntarily. As we leave 2017 and enter 2018, growth across the state will be constrained by limited growth in the labor force.”

Valley growth

Kings County's job growth year over year was seen in farm jobs - up 200 with nonfarm jobs up 700 and retail trade up 300. Hospitality jobs were higher by 100.

In nearby Tulare County, there was an increase of 4,400 jobs with a surprising 2,200 of those in farm jobs and a gain of 400 construction jobs and 600 more in health care in the nonfarm category.

Kern County also saw a gain in farm jobs while Fresno County’s total industry employment increased by 4,400 jobs with nonfarm employment rising by 5,700 jobs while farm employment decreased by 1,300 jobs, down 3.2 percent.

If the focus is on jobs, both the state and Valley economies appear to fare well with these record low jobless numbers and continuing growth. Year-over-year job growth in California now stands at 1.7 percent, ahead of the 1.4 percent pace in the nation overall.

While the spotlight is typically on nonfarm jobs - the number of ag-related jobs in California has been creeping higher for the past few years after the recession.

It takes more than robots to bring in the harvest.

Joey Joslin aims to take Chamber in new direction

HANFORD — On Wednesday, Joey Joslin sat in the Hanford Chamber of Commerce office that looked like it had been turned upside down with papers scattered everywhere. He was both literally and figuratively cleaning house.

“We are a new chamber,” Joslin said. “We have a new board, a new director and a new direction.”

At the beginning of the month, Joslin was hired as the Chamber’s new executive director after longtime executive director Mike Bertaina retired earlier this year.

This week, Joslin and several Chamber board members have been cleaning the office out, which is in the old courthouse at 113 Court St. He said he wanted the chamber office to be more welcoming and inviting and let everyone know that they are there.

Joslin, 39, said for about the last 20 years he has been involved with different aspects of marketing, including media, radio, television, digital and print. He also used to own the Smoke Joint BBQ restaurant in downtown Hanford.

“I’m pretty diverse in my business background, but most of it centers around marketing,” Joslin said.

Joslin said after the restaurant closed in December 2016, he ran into Bertaina, who told him that he would be retiring and that Joslin should apply for the position.

“The day that I applied for the position, my brain started working on ideas,” Joslin said. “And for seven months, it didn’t stop.”

Joslin, who is from Bakersfield and also lived in Seattle for some time, moved to Hanford about six years ago. He said he lives with his wife on the south end of Hanford.

“I love this area,” Joslin said. “You get that Central Valley feel with a little bit of a small town feel. I absolutely love Hanford.”

Not only does Joslin love downtown Hanford, he said he loves the entire city, which is why he wanted to work for the Chamber and make an impact on the entire city. He said it’s his mission to bring in businesses that he knows the people of Hanford want.

Joslin said the Hanford Chamber of Commerce has the potential to be great, and he’s thankful to the board for supporting him and sharing in his vision of achieving that greatness.

Jill Caviezel-Hoots of Adventist Health has been on the Chamber board for several years but is now the new president. She said she and the other board members are excited about Joslin and believe he will be a great fit for the organization.

“He’s awesome,” Caviezel-Hoots said. “He’s very community-minded and business-minded.”

Linda Silveira, owner of Retro Salon and new vice president of the Chamber board, said the Chamber is starting fresh with new ideas and wants everyone to know that the organization will strive to be better than ever in 2018.

“Joey has so much energy and new ideas,” Silveira said. “[He] is very enthusiastic and really wants to see our chamber become better.”

Silveira said she’s excited about moving the Chamber forward with Joslin and several new board members in place. She said she can’t wait to get the word out about the chamber and involve as many Hanford and Kings County businesses as possible.

Caviezel-Hoots said the chamber is eager to enhance its presence within the community and is looking forward to 2018.

Joslin said his goal is to promote businesses, bring more events into town that will help the businesses promote themselves and bring back mixers that will allow owners to network amongst themselves. The Chamber raises money by hosting its own events and through membership dues, and some of its cash comes in the form of a contract with the city.

“We want to bring the excitement back to being a Chamber member,” Joslin said. “It’s really important for a business to know that the chamber that you’re a member of is doing something for you.”

As of right now, there are just over 400 businesses that are members of the Chamber. Considering there are about 1,400 businesses in Hanford, Joslin said his first goal is to reach out to all the businesses and get started on bringing more members in.

“I would love to see us have every single business be a member of the Chamber,” Joslin said.

Joslin’s goal may be ambitious, but he’s up for the challenge. He said there will be many changes that will be implemented to enhance the Chamber’s reach, including a revamped website and wider access to resources.

Joslin encouraged any business owner to visit the Chamber office or give him a call so that he can show them the benefits that will be available to them as a member.

As California legalizes pot, laws collide at US checkpoints

PINE VALLEY, Calif. — California legalizes marijuana for recreational use Monday, but that won't stop federal agents from seizing the drug — even in tiny amounts — on busy freeways and backcountry highways.

Marijuana possession still will be prohibited at eight Border Patrol checkpoints in California, a reminder that state and federal laws collide when it comes to pot. The U.S. government classifies marijuana as a controlled substance, like heroin and LSD.

"Prior to Jan. 1, it's going to be the same after Jan. 1, because nothing changed on our end," said Ryan Yamasaki, an assistant chief of the Border Patrol's San Diego sector. "If you're a federal law enforcement agency, you uphold federal laws."

The checkpoints, located up to 100 miles from Mexico, are considered a final line of defense against immigrants who elude agents at the border. They also have been a trap for U.S. citizens carrying drugs, even tiny bags of marijuana.

About 40 percent of pot seizures at Border Patrol checkpoints from fiscal years 2013 to 2016 were an ounce (28 grams) or less from U.S. citizens, according to a Government Accountability Office report last month. California's new law allows anyone 21 and over to carry up to an ounce.

The Border Patrol operates 34 permanent checkpoints along the Mexican border and an additional 103 "tactical" stops, typically cones and signs that appear for brief periods.

Ronald Vitiello, acting deputy commissioner of parent agency Customs and Border Protection, called drug seizures an "ancillary effect" of enforcing immigration laws. Motorists typically are released after being photographed and fingerprinted. They generally aren't charged with a crime because prosecutors consider them low priority.

The clash between state and federal marijuana laws played out on a smaller scale near the Canadian border in Washington after that state legalized marijuana in 2014. California is a far busier route for illegal crossings with many more agents.

State and federal marijuana laws have conflicted since California became the first to legalize marijuana for medical use in 1996. Next week, California will be among seven states and Washington, D.C., with legal recreational pot.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a staunch opponent of legalization, said last month that he was taking a close look at federal enforcement, suggesting a tougher stance than President Barack Obama's administration.

At highway checkpoints, Border Patrol agents look for signs of nervous drivers, like clutching steering wheels and avoiding eye contact and interrupting when passengers are asked to state citizenship. Some panicked drivers make a U-turn when they spot the checkpoint, a dead giveaway.

One recent morning on westbound Interstate 8 about 40 miles east of San Diego, an agent standing outside a booth under a large white canopy stopped drivers for a few seconds to ask their citizenship or waved them through after peering inside.

In about an hour, three raised enough suspicion to be ordered aside for a thorough vehicle search.

A dog discovered a marijuana stash about the size of a thumbprint inside the pickup truck of a man with Arizona license plates who was taking his elderly uncle to a hospital appointment. It would have taken up to an hour to process the arrest, so agents released him after seizing the pot and warning it was illegal.

"I didn't know that, sorry," the driver said, walking to his truck after waiting on a bench a few minutes while the dog searched.

The animal sniffed something in another car but found nothing in the seats or trunk. The apologetic driver said she smoked marijuana a week earlier, implying the odor lingered.

The Pine Valley checkpoint, amid oak- and chaparral-covered mountains on the main route from Arizona to San Diego, gets busy with drivers returning from weekend getaways but is less traveled than others.

Agents say a checkpoint on Interstate 5 between San Diego and Los Angeles can cause a 4-mile backup in 90 seconds during peak hours.

The government faces pushback over checkpoints. Some residents complain about delays and trespassers trying to circumvent checkpoints — some even dying from heat and exhaustion. Motorists who consider them a privacy invasion steadfastly refuse to answer questions and post their test encounters on YouTube.

Border Patrol officials insist they are effective. Without them, Vitiello said, smugglers would have open passage to cities like Phoenix and Albuquerque, New Mexico, once past the border.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1976 that agents can question people at checkpoints even without reason to believe anyone in the vehicle is in the country illegally and don't need a search warrant.

Michael Chernis, an attorney who represents people charged with marijuana crimes, believes checkpoint seizures are a waste of resources but acknowledged the government is empowered.

"The bottom line is, there's absolutely no protection against federal interaction when it comes to adult use," he said.

Police make arrest on Christmas night fatal hit-and-run

HANFORD — The Hanford Police Department has made an arrest following the hit-and-run car crash that left one man dead on Christmas night.

On Tuesday, police officials said 19-year-old Angel Castillo was arrested after being identified as the driver who fled the scene of the fatal crash.

The crash happened Monday at around 8:45 p.m. Officers said they were called out to the intersection of 11th and Hume avenues regarding a two-vehicle collision with serious injuries.

During the investigation, police said they determined a white Chevrolet Malibu occupied by five people was traveling north on 11th Avenue. As the Malibu entered the intersection, a gray GMC Yukon was traveling east on Hume Avenue and entered the intersection at what police said appeared to be a high rate of speed.

Officers said the Yukon collided with the left side of the Chevy Malibu. The driver of the Malibu, identified as 39-year-old Raymond Romero Jr., died on scene, police said.

The four other occupants of the Malibu were transported to various hospitals for their injuries, which were determined to be life-threatening.

After officers arrived on scene, they said they learned one male driver, now identified as Castillo, and one male passenger of the Yukon ran away from the scene after the crash.

Authorities said Castillo was booked into Kings County Jail and charged on suspicion of hit and run causing injury or death and involuntary manslaughter. His bail was set at $560,000.