2011 April 30 Saturday
Pockets Of High Unemployment
While looking for news stories about the latest changes in US national unemployment rate I came across a grim story about unemployment rates in some California counties.
In Lake County, unemployment was at 19.5 percent in March, up from 19.2 percent in February and up from the 19 percent recorded in March 2010, the state reported.
Lake County's most recent unemployment rate earned it a statewide rank of 49 out of 58 counties, the same as its February rank.
So 10 other counties in California have unemployment rates higher than 19.5%. How would you like to find yourself living in such a county? This brings to mind Victor Davis Hanson's essay about two Californias. Colusa County's unemployment rate is 26.7%.
Lake's neighboring counties registered the following unemployment rates and statewide ranks: Colusa, 26.7 percent, No. 58; Glenn, 18.6 percent, No. 46; Yolo, 14.8 percent, No. 33; Mendocino, 12.5 percent, No. 22; Napa, 10.3 percent, No. 9; and Sonoma, 10.4 percent, No. 11.
Within-county high points of unemployment go even higher with the Clearlake Oaks area of Lake County Califora at 28.5%
In Lake County, Clearlake Oaks was the area with highest unemployment, 28.5 percent, followed by Nice, 27.8 percent; the city of Clearlake, 27.4 percent; Lucerne, 20.5 percent;
So what about the rest of the United States? How bad does it get? A county-level table of unemployment for all the US from the US Bureau of Labor Local Area Unemployment Statistics (LAUS) has some pretty high unemployment numbers. For the national high Mackinac County Michigan was at 29.0% in February 2011 and 28.2% in March. Here's a graphical view by county:
That picture is a view into our future when Peak Oil causes such high oil prices that the US economy slips into a depression.
Many have made comparisons between California and Texas, arguing that the difference is quality of government. The map is a colorful expression of that difference.
I suspect the bigger differences are:
- More oil in Texas.
- More room for cheap housing in Texas.
- Less welfare in Texas.
What accounts for low unemployment in western North Dakota? The Bakken shale oil formation.
There are Bakken like oil fields in California too, but not developed. How much of the difference in oil production in each state is a governance issue rather than a resource issue?
Mackinac County, Michigan is the home of Mackinac Island and the beautiful old Grand Hotel, which is only open from late spring to early fall (winters on Mackinac Island are not likely to draw too many tourists, to say the least). Think this means lots of temp jobs at the hotel for the locals? Think again (this was in 2007, but I doubt much has changed):
President Bush wants to substantially increase the number of work visas - 200,000 compared to 66,000 under the current program. But the changes he's pushing in seasonal worker regulations will make visa application fees more expensive for companies, as well as require them to seek out American workers for a longer period of time which, in turn, would be more expensive.
Rising costs make it less feasible for places like the Grand Hotel to fill their positions. Which means poeople like Kenneth Salmon might not make it back to the States.
"We've been doing this for years and this is all we know," said Salmon, 52. He is among hundreds of Jamaican staffers at the 120-year-old Grand Hotel, which is open from early May through October. "We are wondering if we're not going to be able to come back.
Kenneth Salmon started as a waiter at the Grand Hotel 36 years ago, and is now vice president of hospitality. The job enables him to support his wife and mother back home, where he returns after six months on Mackinac Island. "It would be chaos for our families in Jamaica if we couldn't come here," he said.
But employers like the Grand Hotel are just as worried. To them, hiring foreigners to do the more tedious tasks, like housekeeping, lawnwork and dishwashing, is essential to their survival.
Fewer American college students are interested in such work than in the past, said John Hulett, managing director of the Grand Hotel, where about 350 of the 575 staffers are foreign, including about 230 Jamaicans.
"Over the years we've become more affluent, and the kids out there today just aren't as hungry as they were back in the day when they had to earn their way through school," Hulett said.