Central Valley unemployment rates fell in April

The start of the farm season led to a decrease in Valley unemployment rates.The start of the farm season led to a decrease in Valley unemployment rates.Fresno County's unemployment rate fell by a 1.5 percentage points last month, thanks to 4,700 new ag jobs, welcoming the start of the farm season.

The county's unemployment rate was 13.4 percent for April, compared to 14.9 percent in March and 15.8 percent in April 2012, according to new data from the California Employment Development Department.

Farm activity posted a normal seasonal increase.

"Strawberries are being harvested and sold at roadside stands," according to an EDD release. "Harvest of asparagus continued, as broccoli and spring lettuce wrapped-up for the season."

In addition to bolstered ag hiring, the professional and business services sector expanded by 700 jobs month-over-month in Fresno County and educational and health services added 400 jobs. Three sectors — trade, transportation and utilities; manufacturing and leisure and hospitality — each added 200 new jobs.

Between April 2012 and April 2013, Fresno County's construction industry saw a net gain of 900 jobs to reach its highest April total since 2009.

The month-over downward trend in the unemployment rate was evident across the Central Valley.

Tulare County's rate in April was 13.7 percent, down two points from March. The county added 4,200 farm jobs in the month, but only added 200 net non-farm jobs.

Madera County's unemployment rate fell to 12.4 percent last month from 13.5 percent in March. Madera County's ag sector was the only one in the Central Valley that shed jobs in the period, losing 800 positions. Non-farm employment gained a net 100 new jobs.

In Kings County, the April unemployment rate was 13.8 percent, down from 15.3 percent in March. The farm sector added 600 news jobs, while 100 new non-farm jobs were added.

California's unemployment rate fell to 9 percent in April from 9.4 percent in March. Statewide, there were 497,274 people receiving regular unemployment insurance benefits in California during the month of April, compared to 532,831 in March and 552,163 last year.