Ag_features (1)

Angel Garcia Martinez works under a canopy of grape branches near Lamont as a crew of agriculture workers clear leaves on the vines to allow the grapes to grow and ripen, in a file photo.

Henry A. Barrios/ The Californian

State figures released Friday show Kern County’s unemployment rate slid to a seasonally unadjusted 9.7 percent in May, down from April’s 10.6 percent and March’s 11.6 percent, as local farmers continued to add jobs and oil companies went on slashing them.

According to data from the Employment Development Department, the county’s agriculture industry contributed 8,000 jobs last month, a 14.8 percent month-to-month jump that expanded local farming employment to about 1 percent more jobs than existed here in May 2015.

The local oil and gas industry, meanwhile, shed another 200 jobs, or 2.2 percent. That lowered its ranks to an estimated 8,900, 17.6 percent fewer than worked in the field a year ago, according to the EDD. Since December 2014, plummeting oil prices have cost the county about 3,600 oil jobs.

California and the nation as a whole posted net improvements in their employment pictures. The EDD said the state’s jobless rate dropped to a seasonally unadjusted 4.7 percent, down from a revised 5.2 percent in April and 5.6 percent in March.

Across the country, unemployment was down to 4.5 percent, also unadjusted to account for seasonal fluctuations, the EDD said. In April, the national rate was pegged at 4.7 percent, and in March it was 5.1 percent.

In Kern, the category that groups together trade, transportation and utilities produced 500 jobs last month, a gain of almost 1 percent. Year over year, May’s increase raised the classification to 5.3 percent over May 2015’s total.

The local retail industry grew by 300 jobs in May, or about 1 percent the EDD said. That brought it to 6.4 percent more people than Kern retailers employed a year earlier.

Significant job losses occurred last month in the county’s professional, scientific and technical services sector. It posted a net decrease of 200 jobs, or 1.8 percent, in May. But measured year to year, last month’s total was up 3.9 percent.

The county’s accommodation and food service businesses lost 200 jobs in May, or nearly 1 percent. But as a category they ended the month with 2.2 percent more positions than they had in May 2015.

The EDD reported Kern’s local government payrolls ended the month flat. While local employment in education was down 200 jobs, or 0.7 percent, local government excluding education hired the same number, gaining 1.4 percent.

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