Val­ley job gains off­set mass lay­offs of 2018

The Modesto Bee - - Front Page - BY TIM SHEE­HAN tshee­[email protected]­nobee.com

Em­ploy­ers across the greater San Joaquin Val­ley col­lec­tively laid off al­most 7,600 work­ers be­cause of plant or store clo­sures or lay­offs in 2018, and some com­pa­nies al­ready have plans to let go of hun­dreds more in the first few months of 2019.

But those losses were more than off­set by sig­nif­i­cant gains in the over­all num­bers of peo­ple work­ing through­out the year in all but one of the eight coun­ties in the re­gion. As of Novem­ber, there were about 64,700 more peo­ple em­ployed than at the start of the year, ac­cord­ing to the state Em­ploy­ment Devel­op­ment Depart­ment.

In Fresno County, the largest nu­mer­i­cal gain in year-overyear em­ploy­ment was in the con­struc­tion in­dus­try, which was ham­mered by the 2007-09 re­ces­sion af­ter the mid-2000s hous­ing bub­ble had burst. Over the course of the year, the sec­tor added about 1,500 jobs, grow­ing to 19,300 con­struc­tion work­ers in Novem­ber.

Those con­struc­tion gains, how­ever, were not uni­formly seen across the rest of the re­gion. Kings County, for ex­am­ple, was flat for the year, hold­ing steady at 900 jobs to be­gin and end the year, while Kern County lost about 200 con­struc­tion jobs.

But in the Stock­ton area and the rest of San Joaquin County, con­struc­tion jobs grew from 11,900 to about 13,400 – a gain of 12.6 per­cent from a year ear­lier. More mod­est gains in con­struc­tion were seen in Madera, Merced, Stanis­laus and Tu­lare coun­ties.

Even more gains were seen in the leisure/hos­pi­tal­ity sec­tor, where many restau­rant, fast food and hotel house­keep­ing jobs are char­ac­ter­ized by lower wages.

What’s not show­ing up yet in the EDD es­ti­mates are jobs at new dis­tri­bu­tion and e-com­merce ware­houses opened in Fresno last year by Ulta Beauty and Ama­zon. The trans­porta­tion and ware­hous­ing sec­tor only re­flected a gain of 100 jobs be­tween Novem­ber 2017 to Novem­ber 2018, but Ama­zon and Ulta to­gether hired up­wards of 2,000 em­ploy­ees to open their new fa­cil­i­ties.

OUTWEIGHING THE LOSSES

The tens of thou­sands of jobs gained last year eas­ily out­weighed the pain of mass lay­offs trig­gered by plant clo­sures or force re­duc­tions up and down the Val­ley.

The largest sin­gle clo­sure was at Seneca Foods in Modesto, where about 1,975 work­ers lost their jobs in Septem­ber ac­cord­ing to no­tices filed by the com­pany with the state and lo­cal em­ploy­ment of­fi­cials.

Cal­i­for­nia’s Worker Ad­just­ment and Re­train­ing No­ti­fi­ca­tion (WARN) Act gen­er­ally re­quires a com­pany to noti-

fy the state, and its em­ploy­ees, at least 60 days prior to a plant clos­ing or mass lay­off. The state law cov­ers em­ploy­ers with at least 75 full- or part-time em­ploy­ees, and in­cludes busi­ness clo­sures af­fect­ing any num­ber of em­ploy­ees or lay­offs of 50 or more work­ers.

Among per­ma­nent clo­sures, the Seneca an­nounce­ment was fol­lowed by the bank­ruptcy of Zacky Farms, which idled nearly 500 work­ers when it shut down its poul­try pro­cess­ing plants in Fresno and Stock­ton.

Dis­count re­tail­ers Kmart and Sears, both owned by Sears Hold­ings, also had store clo­sures in the lat­ter half of 2018. Kmart closed stores in Clo­vis, De­lano, Le­moore, Modesto and Visalia that re­sulted in 341 lay­offs, while Sears clo­sures in Modesto and Bak­ers­field put an­other 174 em­ploy­ees out of work.

There is likely to be more pain ahead in 2019. Tree­house Pri­vate Brands, which makes pret­zels, an­nounced last year that it was shut­ting down the pro­duc­tion plant it owns in north­west Visalia. Ac­cord­ing to re­quired no­tices pro­vided to the state, about 243 work­ers will be af­fected by the clo­sure, and pro­duc­tion will be shifted to other Tree­house Foods fa­cil­i­ties around the U.S.

In Stock­ton, the Ma­sonite Cor­po­ra­tion will lay off about 131 em­ploy­ees with the clo­sure of a plant in mid-March.

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