By ERIN MAYES
Jobless rates for May in both Calaveras and Tuolumne counties are down slightly from April, according to the state Employment Development Department.
Calaveras County, with a May unemployment rate of 7.6 percent, saw about 200 more people employed last month. April's rate was 8.9 percent.
Tuolumne County saw a May jobless rate of 6.5 percent. That means 240 more people in the work force since April, when the rate was 7.5 percent.
Although the unemployment rate seems to be following a downward trend, it's still higher than it was at the same time last year. Calaveras County had an unemployment rate of only 6.4 percent a year ago, and Tuolumne County came in with a low 5.7 percent, almost 2 percentage points lower than its current rate.
The higher jobless rates aren't unique to the foothills, though. They've gone up statewide.
Alpine County still has the highest rate in the state 22.3 percent. It held that dubious distinction at the same time last year, as well, when it had a jobless rate of 17.7 percent. But that county is unique with the fewest people in the labor force.
In fact, people seem to be leaving the Alpine area, at least for work. Last year's numbers show that 340 people were either employed or looking for work. This year, that number has dropped to 290.
Calaveras County has 17,190 people in its labor force, and Tuolumne County has 22,360. Those numbers are both up from last year.
Candace Katosic, work force investment board director for Mother Lode Job Training, said the lower unemployment rate is not reflective of what she's been seeing, although she could only speculate as to why.
One reason, she suggested, is that there has been a migration of people from out of state and the Bay area into Tuolumne and Calaveras counties. She attributed the lower jobless rates to the onset of summer.
"I think that's probably reflective of the seasonal hiring trends," she said. For example, more people are hired for the tourist and fire seasons.