Good news for Humboldt County workers, or those who would like to work: Humboldt County’s unemployment rate has been in freefall lately.

This morning, the local office of the state’s Employment Development Division released its final numbers for April, which showed that unemployment in the county stands at a measly 5.4 percent, which is the lowest it has been since October 2007 — the early days of the global financial crisis. This is the 16th lowest rate in the state (out of 58 counties).

This is great news for you local wage slaves, who find themselves in a seller’s market. The overlords, if they are paying attention, should be starting to feel the squeeze. If you’ve been thinking about putting in for that raise — or jumping ship to a higher salary — maybe now’s the time.

This is as good an occasion as any to remind ourselves what the unemployment rate is. The unemployment rate is not the number of jobs divided by the number of people. It is the number of people without a job who are actively looking for one divided by the total “labor force,” which is the number of people who are ready and able to work, whether they are currently employed or not.

In Humboldt County, for instance, the EDD pegs the total April 2015 labor force at 62,500 people, 3,400 of whom are unemployed. Divide the latter number by the former and you get 5.4 percent.

But this always begs the question, here in Humboldt: How many working-age people are not even looking for work? How many people out there don’t even figure into the labor force numbers — because they are students, because they’re disabled, because they have given up hope of ever finding a job? (You have to have been actively looking for work in the last four weeks to be counted as a member of the labor force.)

Maybe most importantly — how many people out there are making their living in the black market? How many of those people may be looking for work, once the marijuana industry comes out from underground?

These are not easy questions to answer, but since your Lost Coast Outpost had a few spare moments today it attempted to find some figures. What would happen if we take the working-age population of each county in California and compare it to the size of its labor force? Is our unable/unwilling/underground population much larger than other counties?

To answer the question, the Outpost grabbed labor force figures for Jan. 2015 from the Employment Development Department and matched them up, county by county, with 2015 population estimates by age from the California Department of Finance, taking, for argument’s sake, the total number of people between the ages of 18 and 65 as the working-age population. There is a caveat to this methodology — notably, that people under 18 or over 65 might well be working or looking for work, and so would be considered part of the labor force. Still, this might be considered a useful cross-county comparison.

First, Humboldt County’s raw numbers. The EDD reports a labor force of 62,700 in January 2015, while the Department of Finance estimates a population of 92,734 people ages 18-65. That gives us a ratio of almost exactly two people working or looking for work for every three people of working age — 67.6 percent, to be precise.

How does this compare to other counties? Not as drastically as you might expect. All told, we have the 19th lowest workforce/working-age ratio in the state. This is far ahead of #1 Lassen County (41.97 percent) and even slightly ahead of a few high-population counties, such as San Bernardino (65.1 percent) and San Joaquin (65.7 percent).

At the other end of the spectrum, the highest workforce/working-age ratios are mostly found in the Bay Area. San Mateo County, the heart of the Silicon Valley, counts about nine workforce members for every 10 working age people, and San Francisco, Marin and Santa Clara are not far behind.

Download my spreadsheet here if you’d like to check the work, or if you’d like to sort and filter the figures in your own fashion.

Anyway, to get back to basic unemployment figures — huzzah, Humboldt! If you want work, you have a pretty decent chance of finding it. Press release from the California Employment Development Department, and thanks to the EDD’s Randy Weaver for helping me refine my cross-county comparison, above:

Humboldt’s preliminary January jobless rate is 5.4 percent, a fall of 0.5 percentage points from the revised March rate of 5.9 percent. The year-over rate is 1.2 percentage points below the April 2014 rate (6.6 percent). With the rate fall, Humboldt moved from 18th rank to 16th (from the top) among the 58 counties statewide. Surrounding county rates include: Del Norte (8.5 percent), Siskiyou (9.2 percent), Shasta (7.7 percent), Trinity (8.8 percent), and Mendocino (5.5 percent). San Mateo (3.2 percent) had the lowest rate and Imperial (21.2 percent) was the highest. The comparable, not seasonally adjusted California rate is 6.1 percent and the U.S. rate is 5.1 percent.

Total Humboldt industry employment grew by 300 jobs from March to April. The county is up 700 jobs for the year-over with five industry sectors gaining, five remaining unchanged, and two declining.

Year-over job growth occurred in:

  • Educational & Health Services (+300)
    • Government (+200)
    • Other Services (+100)
  • Professional & Business Services (+100)
  • Leisure & Hospitality (+100)

Industry sectors with no change over the year:

  • Farm
  • Mining & Logging
  • Trade, Transportation, & Utilities
  • Information
    • Financial Activities

Year-over cutbacks occurred in:

  • Manufacturing (-100)
  • Construction (-100)