Officials in Sonoma and Napa counties are beginning to get an idea of the impact the North Bay fires had on the job market.
Data released by the Employment Development Department (EDD), which tracks jobs by county and industry, shows 4,487 Sonoma and 1,829 Napa county residents have filed unemployment claims as a result of last month’s wildfires. That number is expected to go up as the EDD has extended the deadline to apply for benefits until Dec. 18.
EDD spokeswoman Loree Levy says the benefits are for people who either lost their job or a significant amount of work hours as a result of the fires. She says the aid can equal up to $450 per week for 26 weeks.
“It’s valuable support that can help people at a time when there’s a huge upheaval in their lives,” she says.
Some industries in Sonoma County have experienced disproportionate job loss over the past month, EDD data show. It’s normal for some sectors in the county, such as hospitality, to experience a slow season this time of year, but the data show this year is worse than usual.
“The leisure and hospitality sector typically goes down 200 jobs between September and October,” Jorge Villalobos with the regional EDD explains. “But for this year we saw a drop of twice that at minus 400 jobs.”
According to Villalobos, both the manufacturing and the farm industries also experienced unusual job loss over the last month compared with a 10-year average.
Jessica Taylor is a manager at JobLink in Santa Rosa, which pairs job seekers with employers. She estimates the number of people coming into JobLink in search of work doubled from September to October.
Taylor says they went from their typical average of seeing about 20 people per day to about 90 people per day during the fires. “It was quite a spike," she says.
Most of those people were facing unemployment as a result of the wildfires, according to Taylor. She says since those first few weeks after the fires broke out, the number of people in need of help has declined slightly. However, Taylor says the impacts of the wildfires on the job market will come in waves, and says her team is trying to prepare for every scenario.
“Trying to anticipate what our customers are going to need, what our community’s going to need, does add another layer of pressure,” she says. “I think where everyone wants to be now is, ‘How can we be the most ready for what comes next?’ ”