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County's unemployment rate drops 5.2 percent in January

state, nation rates increased

March 01, 2002|By MARIO RENTERIA, Staff Writer

The unemployment rate in Imperial County dropped 5.2 percent this January compared to January 2001 even while the rate has increased across the state and nation.

In January 2001 the unemployment rate in Imperial County was 21.7 percent. This January the rate was 16.5 percent, according to the California Employment Development Department.

That means of 55,700 county residents of legal age to work, 46,500 were working and 9,200 were unemployed.

The state's most recent unemployment rate was 6.7 percent. In January 2001 the rate was 5.2 percent.

Across the nation the unemployment rate in January was 6.3 percent. In January 2001 the rate was 4.7 percent.

"The rate drop can mean a number of things. I am assuming the bulk of the reduction may have been an increase in past retail sales, service, industry," said Louis Fuentes Imperial Valley Economic Development Corp. president.

"Because we've had a history of unemployment, people are branching out to vocational trades, technical skills they can apply in other areas," he added.

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Fuentes said the percentage fluctuates during the year.

"I'm glad the rate has gone down. We just have to look at ways to get it lower," he added.

In Calexico, the unemployment rate in January 2001 was 28.6 percent. In January the rate was 6 percent less at 22.6. Calexico's unemployment rate is the highest of the three largest cities in the Imperial Valley.

Of 8,740 Calexico residents of legal age to work, 6,760 had a job while 1,980 were unemployed.

"It benefits the economy of Calexico. It gives those employed residents more disposable income and if they have more money to spend it means more money for retailers," said Calexico Mayor Victor Carrillo.

In Brawley the average unemployment rate in 2001 was 21.8 percent. This January the rate was 16.9 percent, meaning 1,700 individuals were unemployed among 10,050 Brawley residents of the legal age to work.

The city of El Centro had an unemployment rate of 15.9 percent in January, the lowest of the three largest Valley cities. In January 2001, the unemployment rate was 20.6 percent. El Centro has the largest number of residents unemployed with 2,700 of 16,950 residents who are of legal age limit to work.

"We're encouraged by the drop in the unemployment numbers. However, we recognize that unemployment rates are seasonal," said El Centro Mayor Cheryl Walker.

The county's unemployment rate may have been affected by the opening of a beef-processing plant in Brawley in recent months that is employing hundreds of locals.

>> Staff Writer Mario RenterĂ­a can be reached at 337-3441.

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