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.

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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.

Pot growing could attract unions here

Kings County is poised to become a major pot growing center at least indoors in those huge warehouses planned in the Hanford Industrial Park. At least three well-funded projects are moving forward in the new year. Now there are reports that labor unions want to target the workforce that will harvest the crop. That includes the United Farmworkers Union as well as the United Food and Commercial Workers.

"If you're a cannabis worker, the UFW wants to talk with you," national vice president Armando Elenes told a reporter recently.

The report says: “Labor leaders estimate recreational pot in California could employ at least 100,000 workers from the north coast to the Sierra Nevada foothills and the San Joaquin Valley, harvesting and trimming the plants, extracting ingredients to put in liquids and edibles and driving it to stores and front doors.”

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John Lindt is an independent business reporter. He can be reached at sierra2thesea@gmail.com

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