Unemployment rises in Stanislaus County, and the economic outlook is flat for 2023

Stanislaus County’s unemployment rate grew to 6.6% in February, an increase from 6.5% in January and higher than 6.4% a year ago.

The increase won’t stir many complaints in a county historically known for double-digit unemployment.

But with high inflation and trouble in the banking industry, 2023 is not shaping up as a stellar year for the nation’s economy or economic activity in California.

The state’s jobless rate rose to 4.3% in February, compared to 4.2% in January. It equates to a 3.28% change in unemployment that is third worst in the nation, according to WalletHub, a personal finance site. The nation’s jobless rate is 3.6%.

Last month, California had fewer unemployed people than a year ago, when the state was still recovering from COVID-19 business shutdowns. It had 840,535 residents without jobs compared to over a million in February 2022.

Stanislaus County mostly showed a drop in retail jobs and business services in the state Employment Development Department report for February.

The failure of Santa Clara-based Silicon Valley Bank this month and aftershocks could have an affect on employment opportunities, according to WalletHub.

“The recent banking collapses can affect unemployment in a couple of ways,” WalletHub Analyst Jill Gonzalez said in a post Friday. “When a bank collapses, it can lead to a reduction in the availability of credit. As a result, businesses may cut back on their hiring, leading to an increase in unemployment.”

In addition, a loss of consumer confidence caused by banking industry turmoil may reduce demand for goods and services and put a chill on hiring, the analyst said.

The Federal Reserve is not optimistic about economic growth this year, which could lead to national unemployment rising to 4.6%, Gonzalez predicted.

Stanislaus County’s jobless rate peaked at 17% amid the coronavirus public health shutdowns in April 2020; otherwise, the county’s longer range economic recovery has kept the jobless rate below 10% since March 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

As COVID-19 restrictions were relaxed, county unemployment reached a low of 4.5% in May 2022.

The weather is another economic factor for Stanislaus. The severe storms, creating an enormous snowpack in the mountains, should provide plenty of water for agriculture in the valley, balanced against crop disruptions as heavy rainfall extends into the spring.

For those who might lose jobs this year, finding work at the same pay level should not be that challenging.

“The biggest thing that unemployed people should look for when choosing which businesses to apply to is compensation that’s appropriate for their field and skill level,” Gonzalez said. “Since there is currently an employment shortage, workers are in a great position to negotiate a worthwhile compensation package.”