A report from U.C. Davis economists today predicts the consequences of the drought in 2015. About 18,600 full-time, part-time and seasonal jobs will be lost, the economists say.
But what about last year?
In 2014 the economists predicted 17,100 jobs would be lost. And yet, the state Employment Development Department says agricultural employment actually bumped up by 2 percent last year.
The two numbers are not in conflict, the Davis economists say. The shift to higher-value crops in California has fueled a long-term increase in farm employment. The relatively small 2 percent increase last year “should be seen as a slowing of this long-term growth trend, and is consistent with a loss of agricultural jobs because of drought,” they write.
In other words, the positive long-term trend of strong global and national markets helps to mask the negative and (hopefully) short-term trend of drought.
There is regional variability, too, of course. Much of the 2 percent increase last year can be attributed to relatively water-rich regions like the Sacramento Valley and the Coast, which improved the state’s performance as a whole. The economists also noted job growth during the winter in several regions, a phenomenon that apparently was not drought related.
Areas that are not rich in water, obviously, faced proportionately larger impacts — and will again this year. Think San Joaquin Valley.
While relying on groundwater will once again “substantially” ease the pain of a dramatic decline in river supplies, expect this year’s drought impact to top $2.7 billion with 564,000 acres fallowed — an area larger than the entire Delta.