Kern’s unemployment rate dips, but still among highest in state

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BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — New state data says Kern County’s unemployment rate has dipped since last month … approaching pre-pandemic levels. And yet, the county continues to suffer from one of the highest unemployment rates in California. The state’s employment development department says local businesses are struggling to find new workers. Some experts blame the pandemic. This comes in spite of the fact that Kern’s economy added more than 2,000 jobs between August and September.

“We’re getting maybe 20 people a month. Before the pandemic, we were getting anywhere from 50 to 100,” said Cristian Ramirez, a manager at a local temp agency called Express Employment Professionals.

The latest state data says 8.7% of Kern residents are out of work. That’s down from nearly 12% this time last year, but employers are still scrambling to fill empty seats around the office.

“I think one of the reasons for that is because people are riding out those unemployment benefits for a little bit longer,” said Robin Paggi, a Human Resources Practitioner at Worklogic HR. “They were able to stash away some money.”

Meantime the state says Kern has the third highest unemployment rate of any county in California.

“Kern County traditionally has high unemployment, primarily because of the two industries we have: Oil and ag,” said Paggi. “And they traditionally have a lot of layoffs, ag especially.”

Some experts say the pandemic puts pressure on employers … especially in places like restaurants and hotels.

“You’ve got people who don’t want to return to those minimum wage jobs,” said Paggi. “So I think one of the things the pandemic is going to make employers do is reassess the pay, the benefits they provide their employees. Becuase employees right now, they kind of have the upper hand.”

As of September, Kern’s unemployment rate is nearly double the national average.

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