The local unemployment rate dropped 3.7 percent in May from an all-time high in April, but the latest employment figures show that the economy of Monterey County is still reeling from the coronavirus crisis. 

The county’s unemployment rate in May stood at 16.8 percent, down from 20.5 percent in April, according to the new monthly data released by the state Employment Development Department.

The industries that saw the largest job gains from the previous month are agriculture with 9,000 jobs added and construction with 1,600. Employment by government saw the largest drop with 2,800 jobs lost compared to the prior month. 

These industry-specific numbers are not surprising considering recent headlines and regular seasonal patterns of employment. The Salinas Valley always adds ag workers in the spring as it comes time to harvest. The uptick in construction jobs tracks with the easing on May 1 of restriction on the industry. Many local governments continued shedding jobs in May as abysmal tax revenue projections poured in. 

In May of last year, the unemployment rate stood at 4.8 percent. The hospitality and leisure took a particularly bad hit with 12,100 fewer jobs than last year, a 46 percent decrease. Farm employment is down 23,500 jobs or 36 percent. 

At 16.8 percent, Monterey County is well above the state total of 15.9 percent. Out of 58 counties, Monterey County has the 49th worst unemployment rate. 

Asaf Shalev is a staff writer at the Monterey County Weekly. He covers the environment, agriculture and K-12 education, as well as Seaside, Marina, Sand City, Big Sur and Carmel Valley.

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