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Impact on local labor markets of California fires in 2017 and 2018

October 15, 2020

As large wildfires continue to burn through California, we look back at the labor market effects of recent California fires such as the Tubbs Fire in October 2017 and the Camp Fire in November 2018. The Tubbs Fire struck Northern California, inflicting its greatest losses on the city of Santa Rosa in Sonoma County, which is next to Napa County. At the time, the Tubbs fire was the most destructive fire in California history. The Camp Fire, concentrated in Butte County, was the most expensive natural disaster in the world in 2018 in terms of insured losses.

12-month percent change in employment, selected construction industries, Butte and combined Sonoma and Napa counties in California
Month Butte county: total private Butte county: construction Butte county: construction of buildings Butte county: heavy and civil engineering construction Butte county: specialty trade contractors Sonoma + Napa county: total private Sonoma + Napa county: construction Sonoma + Napa county: construction of buildings Sonoma + Napa county: heavy and civil engineering construction Sonoma + Napa county: specialty trade contractors

Jan 2016

2.8% 3.7% 1.5% -19.7% 8.1% 2.4% 7.5% 9.8% -9.6% 9.0%

Feb 2016

3.3 4.6 -2.8 -9.4 9.6 3.0 9.2 11.4 0.6 9.5

Mar 2016

3.1 -1.1 -5.7 -22.5 4.2 2.2 5.2 6.6 -6.6 6.3

Apr 2016

4.1 4.7 1.0 -8.0 8.3 2.4 5.1 3.7 2.0 6.2

May 2016

4.4 6.7 7.2 -2.1 7.9 2.0 4.5 4.6 -0.3 5.1

Jun 2016

3.3 5.6 -0.3 -8.5 10.5 2.1 4.3 4.6 -4.0 5.5

Jul 2016

2.7 7.6 0.5 9.9 10.2 1.8 3.9 6.9 -1.1 3.5

Aug 2016

2.4 9.4 0.7 10.8 12.8 1.1 2.6 5.9 0.9 1.5

Sep 2016

3.7 9.7 -0.1 14.5 12.9 1.2 4.5 9.3 0.4 3.3

Oct 2016

3.2 9.3 0.3 19.6 11.4 1.8 2.4 6.5 -4.0 1.8

Nov 2016

3.8 9.3 4.4 20.3 9.8 1.4 0.5 2.7 -2.3 0.1

Dec 2016

2.7 4.3 2.0 18.9 3.5 1.4 -0.9 1.9 -8.8 -0.9

Jan 2017

2.2 -1.3 -0.9 -3.9 -1.1 1.2 -2.8 -5.0 -9.2 -1.1

Feb 2017

2.0 -1.9 2.9 -7.9 -2.9 0.9 -3.8 -6.8 -8.7 -1.9

Mar 2017

3.4 8.2 4.6 19.9 8.2 2.1 4.5 -0.4 0.7 7.1

Apr 2017

1.6 5.4 6.8 0.0 5.7 1.4 4.2 1.7 -2.4 6.2

May 2017

2.6 6.5 4.9 6.3 7.1 2.1 6.6 5.2 -0.3 8.1

Jun 2017

2.4 8.3 9.4 9.9 7.7 2.5 8.8 6.9 6.5 10.0

Jul 2017

2.3 9.5 15.0 3.0 8.4 2.4 7.0 6.6 0.6 8.1

Aug 2017

2.2 6.8 14.9 -4.7 5.6 2.6 6.6 4.6 0.5 8.4

Sep 2017

2.2 5.7 18.4 -7.1 3.3 2.8 5.9 4.3 2.3 7.1

Oct 2017

2.0 3.2 13.9 -6.1 0.8 0.5 -2.3 -3.5 -6.1 -1.3

Nov 2017

1.3 0.8 11.2 -12.2 -1.1 2.3 8.3 9.4 7.3 8.1

Dec 2017

2.6 9.5 17.1 -1.7 8.1 2.7 14.4 12.2 25.5 13.9

Jan 2018

2.4 12.9 15.2 -1.4 13.5 3.4 15.5 17.8 21.2 13.9

Feb 2018

2.9 18.8 25.8 0.9 18.1 3.9 20.3 22.0 34.6 17.8

Mar 2018

2.4 6.6 17.3 -25.3 6.8 2.7 11.6 16.2 8.4 10.2

Apr 2018

2.9 17.0 13.8 90.0 8.3 2.8 14.4 19.6 11.4 12.7

May 2018

1.9 18.0 12.1 109.1 7.3 2.8 13.6 17.7 11.0 12.3

Jun 2018

2.2 21.2 7.2 135.4 10.0 2.8 13.3 20.4 7.6 11.3

Jul 2018

3.0 22.1 2.9 153.3 10.2 2.4 13.6 19.8 8.0 11.8

Aug 2018

2.2 20.9 6.2 153.5 7.9 2.4 15.7 22.6 8.1 14.0

Sep 2018

1.7 17.7 2.9 137.7 6.2 2.1 15.5 23.7 4.8 13.7

Oct 2018

2.2 18.1 5.2 114.4 9.3 5.2 28.4 36.8 19.0 26.3

Nov 2018

-0.2 6.6 1.7 26.1 6.0 3.4 16.6 22.5 3.2 16.1

Dec 2018

-0.7 9.6 1.4 73.4 5.1 2.3 13.4 22.5 -5.9 12.3

Jan 2019

-1.8 9.1 6.6 88.0 2.9 1.2 9.0 22.4 3.8 4.0

Feb 2019

-2.0 6.0 0.9 74.4 1.6 0.8 6.4 21.3 -15.8 3.2

Mar 2019

-3.1 12.2 8.2 96.3 6.3 1.6 11.5 26.4 6.0 6.0

Apr 2019

-3.5 2.0 11.3 -28.7 5.7 0.5 8.1 20.3 0.6 3.8

May 2019

-3.2 -0.7 14.1 -40.5 4.5 0.8 8.0 18.3 5.9 4.0

Jun 2019

-3.6 -3.5 17.1 -47.1 2.3 0.9 7.5 16.4 5.2 4.0

Jul 2019

-5.1 -5.0 20.1 -52.5 2.0 1.3 7.7 14.1 7.5 5.0

Aug 2019

-4.3 -3.0 20.0 -52.6 4.4 1.3 6.6 12.3 5.5 4.3

Sep 2019

-3.5 -1.6 19.9 -54.5 7.2 1.3 7.2 12.4 12.0 4.4

Oct 2019

-3.2 1.7 21.7 -50.6 8.8 1.1 4.3 8.9 5.4 2.1

Nov 2019

-0.3 16.9 29.4 -2.0 14.9 0.8 4.6 11.2 2.9 1.9

Dec 2019

-0.2 6.7 18.6 -33.0 10.0 0.7 1.8 5.6 3.3 -0.1

While the fires destroyed infrastructure and dwellings and spread smoke and ash throughout the region, local employment quickly recovered following both of the fires. One year after each fire, construction employment had increased and has remained at higher levels as the rebuilding continues in Sonoma, Napa, and Butte counties.

For Butte County, there was a large increase in construction employment, particularly in heavy and civil engineering construction, primarily due to major repairs needed for the Oroville Dam located in the county. As repairs on the dam were completed in the fall of 2018, construction employment fell. Then, the Camp Fire broke out in November and a few months later, construction employment in Butte County began to increase again.

While the fires currently raging in California continue to have a large impact on its citizens, infrastructure, buildings, and environment, one silver lining is that labor markets have recovered quickly from large, destructive fires in the past.                                                  

These data are from the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages. You can get more industry employment data for the nation, states, counties, and metropolitan areas with the data viewer tool. We also have more charts and maps on state and county employment, wages, and establishments.

SUGGESTED CITATION

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, The Economics Daily, Impact on local labor markets of California fires in 2017 and 2018 on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/opub/ted/2020/impact-on-local-labor-markets-of-california-fires-in-2017-and-2018.htm (visited October 21, 2020).

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