Yearly unemployment figures for the area saw only a slight drop from where they started in January 2010, raising uncertainty regarding recovery in 2011.
Based on figures from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics and California Employment Development Department, the cities of Oakdale, Riverbank, and Escalon all finished the year with unemployment rates well above the national average of 9.8 percent. The unemployment levels for the three cities are the highest since the early 1940s.
Oakdale and Escalon finished November 2010 (December figures were not yet available) with 16.2 percent unemployment and Riverbank with 25.1 percent. The state unemployment rate was unchanged from 2009 at 12.4 percent for 2010.
The month of March 2010 was harsh for the area with the city of Riverbank having over one in four persons out of work with 27.7 percent unemployment. March unemployment figures were the highest point also for Oakdale with an 18.1 percent rate and Escalon with 17 percent. The summer months saw a small dip in the unemployment rate due to seasonal hiring in agriculture jobs in the area.
In 2009, California EDD saw an incredible spike in the demand for unemployment insurance benefits with demand for the two-week period checks continuing into 2010. Just last month, President Obama signed a comprehensive tax package that included a reauthorization of federal unemployment benefits extension, with a maximum of up to 99 weeks of benefits available.
Locally, the unemployment rate was a familiar topic during the November elections for city offices. In Oakdale, Mayoral candidate Pat Paul successfully campaigned on improving business and the unemployment rate by bringing more business to the city. Riverbank saw both Dotty Nygard and Richard O’Brien win council seats with a platform that included battling unemployment of citizens and keeping businesses in the city.
Riverbank’s high unemployment rate was a factor in other news stories for 2010. The city’s high unemployment rate was cited in the Riverbank Local Redevelopment Authority’s plan to promote the former Army Ammunition Plant. In November, councilman O’Brien questioned high city salaries for a city with a 25 percent unemployment rate.
Nationally, construction employment, which is prevalent in this area, showed the largest decline at 6.4 percent over the year. Retail and farm labor jobs also declined over 2010. Professional and business services jobs recorded the largest increase over the year at 2.6 percent.
Economists are predicting 2011 will be similar to 2010 with no real improvement coming until 2012. Factors for this prediction were weak employment growth in both the private and public sector, frozen budgets as inflation continues, and anticipated layoffs by major retail employers of seasonal hires.