Fourth quarter 2022 employment numbers paint a bright picture for Fresno County, but the road ahead might not be as rosy.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics released its report Thursday on employment and wages for the last few months of 2022. While Los Angeles posted the highest employment rate of the 28 largest counties, the honor of year-over-year growth went to Fresno.
Fresno County Recovered the Most of CA's Big Counties
Employment in Fresno County grew 2.9% from Q4 2021 to Q4 2022, according to BLS data, as it began recovering from COVID-19 losses. Nationally, employment increased by 2.6% during that same period.
“The data released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics highlights the positive growth in wages and jobs in Fresno county, providing a bright spot for the entire state of California,” said Fresno County Administrative Officer Paul Nerland in a statement.
While 21 of the 28 largest counties reported year-over-year weekly wage losses, Fresno County’s average wage remained flat at $1,089.
San Francisco, San Mateo, and Santa Clara counties posted the highest wage losses in the state. Average pay in San Francisco decreased by 22.6%, with 20.7% and 15% losses in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, respectively.
At an average $3,329 salary per week, Santa Clara is the highest-paid county in the U.S. Decreases in average wages can reflect a decrease in hours or a changing job mix.
Layoffs in the well-paid tech industry may also explain the decrease in wages.
Fresno Nurses, Chefs, Construction Workes Eclipse National Wages
Hourly wages in Fresno don't keep up with national averages. The hourly $27.28 average falls behind the $29.76 average across the U.S.
However, registered nurses make significantly more at $59.31 an hour than the national average of $42.80. Construction workers, as well as chefs, make slightly more than the national average for those positions as well.
Unemployment Increases in Fresno County May Not Be All Bad News
Employment trends since 2022's end have not been positive at first glance.
Following December 2022, unemployment has climbed locally. September 2022 posted a low of 5.2% and reached a peak in March at 8.6%. Employment has increased since April, largely attributed to the farm season beginning.
The 7.5% unemployment rate in April remained unchanged into May. June numbers for Fresno County will come out later this month. Nearly 8,000 jobs were added from April to May, 6,100 of which were farm jobs, and 12,800 were added from May 2022.
While the 7.5% unemployment rate in May is two points higher than the 5.6% unemployment in May 2022, the labor force increased by 11,600.
More People Actively Looking for Work in Fresno
This may mean more people are looking for a job, according to Steven Gutierrez, labor market consultant with the Employment Development Department. Unemployment numbers do not include people not actively looking for a job.
Fresno County may see unemployment increase again in June’s numbers if college and high school students out for the summer begin looking for work as they typically do.
“I think we’re starting to see the labor market start to slow down and the labor supply steadily expanding,” Gutierrez said.
National June Employment Numbers Driven by Government, Health Care
Employers around the country added 209,000 jobs in June, the smallest amount in the 30-month streak it’s been positive, according to the BLS.
Government, health care, and social assistance added the most jobs while retail and warehouse/transportation jobs saw declines.
- 60,000 government jobs added, with state (27,000) and local (32,000) government jobs leading the way
- 41,000 health care jobs. Hospitals (15,000), nursing facilities (12,000), and home health care services (9,000) added the most. Dentist offices lost 7,000 jobs.
- 23,000 construction jobs added, pushing the 2023 average of 15,000 jobs a month upward. The average monthly increase in 2022 was 22,000.
- 11,000 retail jobs were lost with building material, garden equipment, and supply stores experiencing the biggest losses. Furniture, home furnishings, electronics, and appliance retailers followed behind.
- 7,000 jobs were lost in the transportation and warehouse sector.
Higher Wages, Low Unemployment May Bring Interest Rate Hike
The labor market is one of the key factors for the Federal Reserve when determining where to peg interest rates. Officials need to stay ahead of wage growth and employment in case inflation gets out of control.
The BLS has two ways of calculating wages. One is a census of employers and another is a census of households. The negative numbers reported in San Francisco come from a census of employers. While it takes longer to calculate, it provides a thorough snapshot of the weekly wages, but not necessarily hours worked, according to Nicholas Chung, an economist with the BLS.
But Federal Reserve officials will be looking at a 4.4% increase in wages in June reported nationwide to decide whether to increase the cost of borrowing money. This was the first time since 2021 that wage growth outpaced inflation, according to the New York Times.