A surge in farm hiring brought Kern's unemployment rate down more than one point in May to a seasonally unadjusted 7.2 percent, proving agriculture continues to be the central and most volatile driver of the county's job climate.
State data released Friday shows local ag employers took on an additional 7,400 workers last month, a 12.7 percent jump that was by far the biggest factor behind a hiring trend that has cut Kern's jobless rate by almost 3 points in two months.
The Employment Development Department's figures underscore the seasonality of an industry responsible for more jobs in Kern than any other single sector.
California's unadjusted unemployment rate declined as well, to 3.5 percent in May from April's revised 3.9 percent. The national rate was pegged at 3.4 percent, stated on an unadjusted basis, down from 3.3 percent in April.
Kern's health care, leisure and business service industries also fluctuated in May, mostly for the better. But as often happens, the changes were small in comparison with ag's outsize influence on the county's primary barometer of economic health.
While most of the county's job classifications showed little change month over month, employment in the category of health care and social assistance grew in May by 600 jobs, or 1.1 percent, the EDD reported.
Restaurant payrolls also increased, by 300 positions, or 1.4 percent. That employment category has added a net 400 jobs, or 1.9 percent, since May 2018.
Employment in professional, scientific and technical services was down, however, at 9,300, a decrease of 400 jobs, or 4.1 percent, from April.