Unemployment spikes hitting different Kern communities differently

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BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — We’ve parsed unemployment numbers enough to understand how retail, farm labor, and oil, to name just three, have fared, month over month, but how have Kern County’s individual localities fared over the course of the Covid-riddled past three months?

The latest unemployment figures break down joblessness several ways, including by industry, but they also tell us where the pockets of unemployment are — and the numbers tell a tough story about places like Mettler.

Kern County added 3,900 jobs in May, bringing the unemployment rate down from 18.7 percent in April to 18.3 percent last month, but the numbers, broken down by city or Census Designated Place, show just how hard hit individual locations have been.

Take Mettler, the tiny farm village situated right there on the west side of Freeway 99 about 25 miles south of downtown Bakersfield. Unemployment numbers are always sky high there.

Last year the average was 16 percent. Ah, for the good old days: The May average was 33.3 percent unemployment.

And it’s like that almost across the board.

South Taft, in 2019, had one of the highest unemployment rates in Kern County, 18.1 percent — a walk in the park compared to its May rate of 37.1, more than double. Mojave was at 17.6 last year, but in may 2020 it was 36.3. Delano is up roughly 50 percent from last year, with 34.8. California City has more than doubled to 32.9.

Areas that tend to stay low — Ridgecrest, Lost Hills, Golden Hills, Bear Valley Springs, which last year were all under 5 percent unemployment in 2019 — have at least managed to stay under 10 percent.

And Bakersfield, with 5.3 percent unemployment in 2019, as of May, had more than triple that number in May — 17 percent.

And remember, these numbers are a slight improvement over April.

The farming industry, which historically sees an increase in ag jobs this time of year, saw the highest net increase of any single local industry in May with an addition of 2,400 jobs.

Unemployment rates can be bad enough in places like Mettler that rely so much on seasonal labor, but 33 percent? A sign of the times … difficult times.

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