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Countywide Jobless Rate Rises to 8.7% During June : Labor: The mark is 1.1% higher than a month earlier. Officials blame a drop in seasonal farm work.


Ventura County's jobless rate jumped to 8.7% in June, up from 7.6% a month earlier, a surge that state officials attributed largely to a loss in seasonal farm jobs.

The unemployment figure of 33,600 is slightly higher than that of June, 1992, an indication that the county's economy and job market have yet to shake the lingering recession.

"It's not getting any better," said Bruce DeVine, the head economist for the Southern California Assn. of Governments. "We're still seeing further declines in employment every month," he said. "I don't think we've bottomed out yet, unfortunately."

Marvin Zimmet, a financial controller for a Moorpark computer company, would probably agree. In March, his employer declared bankruptcy and this week cut his full-time job to 32 hours a week. On Friday, he filled out his first unemployment claim form, seeking partial reimbursement for his lost hours.

Zimmet said he has been scouring the area for work for 2 1/2 years, ever since his employer asked him to take a 33% salary cut. So far, the 63-year-old Simi Valley resident has had no success with prospective employers.

"They can hire somebody a lot cheaper and a lot younger," he said. "I say I'll take a pay cut, but they say as soon I find better-paying work, I'll leave. They don't believe me when I tell them there is no better-paying work out there."

Ventura's jobless picture was a bit brighter than California as a whole, which registered a 9.4% unemployment rate in June, but a bit gloomier than the nation's 7.1% jobless rate.

Ventura County lost 4,900 jobs in the last 12 months, according to data from the state Employment Development Department.

The June survey of county employers found that Ventura agriculture lost 1,400 jobs between May and June. Manufacturers also lost 300 jobs, as did the government sector, the report showed.

Wholesale trade and retail trade each posted gains of 200 jobs, according to the report, and services and public utilities and transportation each posted gains of 100 jobs between May and June.

Claims for initial and extended unemployment benefits also rose in June, following the unemployment rate. According to local labor officials, 5,427 county residents filed claims for initial jobless benefits, up from 4,696 in May. Residents also filed 2,483 requests for extended benefits, up from 2,175 in May, local officials said.

"It's an employer's market right now, because there are so many people that have been unemployed for so long, they'll take anything," said Bobbie Espinoza, a supervisor in the Oxnard employment office.

The good news, said Andrew Diaz Jr., another employee at the Oxnard office, is that "there does seem to be an increase in orders coming in from employers--there do seem to be more jobs coming up for people."

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