Monday, December 12, 2011

Westlands has lowest fallowing in a decade in 2011 while Mendota sets unemployment record (according to CA EDD)

Thanks to this year's abundant precipitation, Westlands' 2011 crop report shows harvested acres increased by 139,000 acres compared to 2009 (and about 70,000 acres higher than 2010).  This is the highest level of harvested acres reported by Westlands Water District since 2000.  Cotton increased by more than 70,000 acres with lower increases in wheat, onions, garlic, lettuce, almonds, and pistachios.  The increaed production undoubtedly provided an economic boost to the area.

Despite the increased farm production, according to California EDD, Mendota's unemployment rate averaged a record 42.3% in the first 10 months of 2011, but don't expect any news reports on this shocking statistic despite the fact that unemployment is 4.5 percentage points higher than the 38.7% recorded during the 1st 10 months of 2009 in the peak of the water/unemployment media frenzy.

Of course, I don't believe this estimate now any more than I believed it in 2009.  Unemployment has almost certainly dropped in Mendota.  I have explained before why this EDD methodology for estimating unemployment in small towns; especially farming towns; is enormously flawed and should be ignored.  Maybe now a few more people will believe it.

For a more reliable estimate from a valid survey, the Census Bureau's 2006-2010 ACS estimated Mendota unemployment averaged 21.6% over that 5 year period.  My rough guess is that it is probably around 25% this year, and was around 30% during 2009.

This is probably one too many posts on this topic.  Sorry for the redundancy, but with Westlands crops data and the latest 5-year ACS estimate of Mendota unemployment released this month, it seemed worth an update.


  1. Jeff, with the large inconsistency in employment numbers between the two reports, it is difficult to counter the valley House members who want to use the 40%+ figures. The issue here seems to be the lack of sharing with the farm worker community. Can you provide a link to the census bureau reports? Do you know if the reduced fallowed lands in Westlands included any land taken out of the irrigation schedule as a result of fallowing via buy-outs by the feds or agreements like Broadmore?
    Dr. Mark Rockwell

  2. If people insist on continuing to use that unemployment rate, I suppose one way to counter is to note that the unemployment rate increased after they got water and fallowing dropped dramatically.

    Although the CA EDD estimate is official (My understanding is that they had to come up with some methodology to guestimate unemployment to distribute funds for various social programs), it is garbage and my preference would be for people not to use this number at all in debates.

    I don't know that the issue is a "lack of sharing" although it is important to note that unemployment and poverty is a permanent, systemic issue in these communities and it has little to do with water.

    There really isn't any good data source to track short-term ups and downs in unemployment in these small towns. County level data is available, and annual data for cities and larger geographes. None of that data shows any large spikes in unemployment for 2009 in these larger geographies, if anything the increases were lower than that seen in other areas during the recession.