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County Jobless Rate Unchanged in April

May 25, 1994|MARY F. POLS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Ventura County's 7.4% jobless rates showed no change from March to April, but remained considerably higher than the state's estimate of unemployed workers in April of last year.

The unemployment rate for April of 1993 was 7.0%, but officials at the state's Employment Development Department, which compiles the figures, cautioned that new methods of gathering statistics make comparisons between years unreliable.

Mark Schniepp, director of the Economic Forecasting Project at UC Santa Barbara, said the stagnant figure was disappointing nonetheless.

"We're down 3,000 jobs in the county from last year at this time," he said. "We keep on losing jobs."

Many of the available jobs are in low-paying fields such as retail, he said. And factoring in declining salaries with limited employment opportunities, Schniepp said, "doesn't lead me to believe that we're making much progress."

The Employment Development Department estimates that 28,000 people in the county were out of work in April, despite the creation of 4,500 seasonal farm labor jobs.

The agency had earlier reported the county's unemployment rate in March as 8.4%, but officials revised it Monday, saying a computer error had caused them to inflate the numbers of people out of work in March.

"We had people working all weekend in Sacramento to figure it out," said research manager Jerry Shea. "It turned out we had been counting some people twice."

Shea said the April figure is also subject to change, and could fluctuate by as much as 0.6% by next month.

Linda Reed, an analyst with the department, said seasonal hiring for agricultural workers is probably at its peak. Since last month, 4,500 agricultural jobs were added. But according to Reed's calculations, most of those jobs are going to people from outside the county, which she said was characteristic of migrant farm labor.

Though there was no change in the unemployment rate for the county, Reed said the number of positions in non-agricultural fields increased by 900 jobs since March. Again, she said, commuters and new residents taking those jobs may account for the lack of change in the unemployment rate .

Service trades added 600 new jobs, while the government sector added 400, mostly in education. Retail and construction added only 100 jobs each. Schniepp said he was troubled by only minor gains in construction opportunities.

"You would think that you'd see construction figures coming up in response to the earthquake," he said. "In addition, we're headed into the building season; longer days, warmer weather. But there has not been much seasonal change."

Schniepp said he believed unemployment would be higher if some people hadn't simply given up on the area and moved elsewhere.

"People don't just hang around and wait to be employed," he said. "You also may have people who get discouraged and just give up. When the people who put these statistics together call them up and ask if they're looking for a job, they just say no. So they get left out of the labor force."

Linda Dever, an assistant manager at the Ventura employment office, said her office has listings for cashiers, tellers, retail sales clerks, laborers and housekeepers. Jobs available in April were much the same, she said.

"I'm afraid," she said, "they're all on the low end of the scale."

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