Some pre-cession jobs levels in Nevada County |

Some pre-cession jobs levels in Nevada County

As California’s unemployment rate dropped the most nationwide, Nevada County saw its jobless rate continue to decrease from April to May — a month-to-month time frame that hasn’t seen a decline since before the recession.

The county’s seasonally unadjusted unemployment decline to 7.3 percent from 7.6 percent was led by gains in the farming and mining/logging/construction sectors of the labor market, according to figures release Friday by the Employment Development Department.

“It is very positive to see the mining, logging and construction sector add jobs. Most of that is logically construction,” said Diane Patterson, an EDD labor market analyst for the agency’s Sierra foothills region.

The 13.2 percent increase to 2,310 total jobs is more than 100 jobs higher than that sector typically sees, according to a 23-year average, Patterson said.

“There is nothing that would indicate that we aren’t showing gradual improvements.”

— Diane Patterson,
labor market analyst

With much of the recession attributed to the burst in the housing bubble, gains like these align with the Nevada County Association of Realtors’ figures that show home prices have increased more than 25 percent from May 2012 amid a decrease in inventory and short-sale properties.

“There is nothing that would indicate that we aren’t showing gradual improvements,” Patterson said.

Nationwide, unemployment rates fell in half of U.S. states last month, led by drops in California and West Virginia. North Dakota had the nation’s lowest unemployment rate at 3.2 percent. Nevada had the highest at 9.5 percent. It was followed by Illinois and Mississippi, each at 9.1 percent.

In California, the seasonally adjusted rate dropped to 8.6 percent from 9 percent in April, while West Virginia’s rate fell to 6.2 percent from 6.6 percent.

The Golden State also saw the largest drop in unemployment among the states in the past 12 months. Its seasonally adjusted rate fell 2.1 percentage points from May 2012. Nevada’s decline of 2 percent was the second largest.

However, the Labor Department said Friday that unemployment rates rose in 17 states and were unchanged in eight.

Hiring has been steady nationwide, leading to a better job market in many areas of the country. Employers added jobs in 33 states last month. The biggest gains were in Ohio, Texas and Michigan.

The unemployment rate dipped in the Northeast to 7.5 percent from 7.6 percent, and fell in the West to 7.8 percent from 8 percent. It was flat in the Midwest at 7.2 percent and edged up in the South to 7.2 percent from 7.1 percent.

Nationally, the economy added 175,000 jobs in May, nearly matching the average monthly gain for the past year. The unemployment rate ticked up to 7.6 percent from 7.5 percent but for a good reason: More Americans were confident they could find work and began searching for a job.

The Federal Reserve on Wednesday offered a brighter outlook for the job market and economy. And Chairman Ben Bernanke said the Fed is likely to slow its bond-buying program later this year and end it next year if the economy continues to strengthen.

Fed officials now expect the unemployment rate to fall as low 7.2 percent this year and between 6.5 percent and 6.8 percent by the end of 2014.

The Federal employment sector in Nevada County also saw a rise in jobs in May, up 8.8 percent from April, which Patterson attributed to the mid-May tax-filing deadline. Although that region of the economy added 30 jobs from 340 in April, Patterson said that increase was less than average for that sector.

The highest gains came in Nevada County’s farming sector, which saw a 22.2 percent increase from April. The county’s largest decrease in jobs occurred in the leisure and hospitality industry that shed 13.2 percent from April to May, down to 3,940 jobs.

Most of those jobs can be attributed to ski resorts in the eastern, higher altitude portion of Nevada County. While the drop in that industry was a higher percentage than normal, Patterson said that because the industry is growing and adding more jobs over the long term, the short-term seasonal decline is indicative of healthy hospitality and leisure job sector.

“It always bottoms out in May,” Patterson said. “It is still higher (in total jobs) than in May of 2007. This may mean that leisure and hospitality has returned to pre-recession levels.”

The Associated Press’ Economics Writer, Christopher S. Rugaber, contributed to this report. To contact Staff Writer Christopher Rosacker, email or call 530-477-4236.

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