Farmworkers bringing in buckets full of red bell peppers to a packing tent at a farms in the Bakersfield area in 2011. In 2005, after several farmworkers died of heat exhaustion, California enacted landmark regulations requiring employers to provide what might seem like the most basic things: water, restrooms and shade for workers. Six years later, records show, employers commonly flout the requirements without real consequences.

Kern County’s jobless rate rose more than half a point in October to a seasonally unadjusted 8.9 percent as a drop in farm employment outweighed gains in education, hospitality, services, construction and health care.

California’s Employment Development Department reported a loss of 2,300 farm jobs countywide from September, a decline of 3.2 percent. The change from a year before was more moderate — only 100 fewer ag positions, or 0.1 percent — as was the overall difference from Kern’s unemployment rate in October 2014, 8.8 percent.

The county’s unemployment rate remained substantially higher than that of California and the nation as a whole. Seasonally unadjusted figures provided by the EDD put the state’s jobless rate in October at 5.7 percent, up from September’s 5.5 percent, and the national rate at 4.8 percent, down from 4.9 percent the month before.

Local employment categories posting the biggest month-over-month improvements on a percentage basis were local education, which added 1,800 jobs, or 6.4 percent; food services and drinking places (900 jobs, or 4.3 percent); and services (4,100, 1.9 percent). Construction expanded by 300 jobs, or 1.8 percent, while employment in health care grew by 500 jobs, or 1.6 percent.

Kern manufacturing contracted by 200 jobs, or 1.3 percent last month, while oil and gas activity was listed as holding steady at 9,900 jobs, an 18 percent decline from a year before.

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