MONTEREY COUNTY, Calif. —
As unemployment in California dropped to 4.3 percent, Monterey County holds one of the highest spots in the state.
The county has a rate of 10.1 percent, followed behind by Santa Cruz and San Benito counties at 6.9 percent. The reason behind this spike in numbers is seasonal farming and lack of ag jobs during colder months.
California’s Department of Employment Development says the increased number for Monterey County is similar to March of last year, when the unemployment rate was 9.6 percent. And even though the rate this year is higher, the department says these numbers are normal to see during the winter season.
“In 2018, the total farm employment was 28 percent of all of the industries. And so because of this, the agricultural employment exhibits seasonal patterns,” said Andriy Moskalyk, with the California Department of Employee Development. He is the Labor Market Consultant for the Central Coast. “So the 10.1 is a little bit higher than last year, but it’s not something unusual or unexpected.”
Other factors that raise concerns for jobs in the agricultural industry is replaced labor.
“You think about thinning and hoeing that’s done by mechanization. A crew of romaine harvesters has gone from say twenty to thirty just ten years ago, to twelve or fourteen today harvesting the same acreage of romaine,” explained Salinas City Councilman Steve McShane. “I think agriculture just like any other industry is requiring greater skill. As there’s fewer positions on a harvest crew, or as there’s machinery and technical skills that are needed in the field, some folks are just not going to have those skills and wind up without a job.”