Merced Development Rodeo: Jobs, jobs, jobs?

Submitted: Aug 04, 2016
By: 
Badlands Journal editorial board

 Since the Merced County public is again being assaulted by the claims that housing and commercial construction are the one and only way of reducing unemployment in our economy, dominated by government subsidized agribusiness, we thought we would compare some unemployment statistics from past years.

These numbers are for Merced County as a whole, but since construction is ramping up on both sides of the county, they seem indicative.

All figures are for June of the year.1.

6/2016: 10.6 percent

6/09: 16.5 percent

6/07: 9.5 percent

6/06: 9.1 percent

6/05: 9.5 percent

These are official unemployment figures. As such they represent between a fifth and a half of the actual unemployment rate.1.

What catches our attention is that there is only a little more than a 1-percentage difference between this year's official unemployment percentage for Merced County -- not a construction-boom year -- and the official unemployment percentage for the years of peak construction, but before the economic bust that raised that number in 2009 to 16.5 percent, which in real terms was easily double that since Merced County's unemployment is typically twice the state and national average.

In fact, translated into numbers that include long-term discouraged workers, short-term discouraged workers and underemployed workers, Merced has about 21-percent unemployment today, had about 19-percent real unemployment during the boom, and 33-percent unemployment in the worst of the post construction-boom regional economic depression. 2.

We would argue that seasonal construction-boom employment is not much different than seasonal agricultural employment and that it doesn't make much difference at all from a worker's perspective. And Merced County may be unique in its special institution, Ranchwood, both the largest local building contractor and largest almond farming company.

How many competent construction workers and contractors even still live in Merced these days? Where are the bevies of beautiful realtors ready to sell you a house regardless of any shred of evidence that you could qualify for the mortgage? Where are the clerks who cranked out those mortgages and sent them on to disappear into banks' bundles of collateralized debt obligations? 

Possibly the slight increase in unemployment between the construction boom and the present is caused by the steady increase in mechanization of agriculture and in the increase of nut acreage, which requires little manual labor.

In any event, every construction project coming along will present itself as that developer's personal jobs program. And yet the numbers don't suggest it, really.

 -- blj

NOTES:

(1)

July 2016

Homefacts.com

Merced County CA Unemployment Rate Report

http://www.homefacts.com/unemployment/California/Merced-County.html

(2)

July 2016

John Williams' Shadow Government Statistics

Alternate Unemployment Charts

http://www.shadowstats.com/alternate_data/unemployment-charts

The seasonally-adjusted SGS Alternate Unemployment Rate reflects current unemployment reporting methodology adjusted for SGS-estimated long-term discouraged workers, who were defined out of official existence in 1994. That estimate is added to the BLS estimate of U-6 unemployment, which includes short-term discouraged workers.

The U-3 unemployment rate is the monthly headline number. The U-6 unemployment rate is the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) broadest unemployment measure, including short-term discouraged and other marginally-attached workers as well as those forced to work part-time because they cannot find full-time employment. 

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