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A Surge in Retailing for the County, Forecaster Says

November 15, 1994|JACK SEARLES

Ventura County isn't about to return to the boom days of the late 1980s, but the county's business climate should continue "stabilizing" over the next six months, predicts Mark Schniepp, director of the UC Santa Barbara Economic Forecast Project.

Schniepp, who tracks Ventura County closely, looks for a surge in retailing and some other non-manufacturing fields in the months ahead, but believes that high-tech and industrial activity will remain stagnant.

"The county's economy is a mixed bag," he said. "The eastern part is doing better than the west. On the whole, there's growth, but it's negligible." Most job openings are of the low-paying variety, he adds.

According to the most recent report by the state Employment Development Department, the county's jobless rate in September was 8.9%, up slightly from the previous month, but down nearly a full percentage point from a year earlier. Higher-paying jobs in technology and industrial plants are still hard to come by, the report showed.

"Looking back, we can say Ventura County climbed out of the recession somewhere around the end of this year's first quarter and the start of the second quarter," Schniepp said. "It's important to remember, though, that the end of a recession doesn't necessarily mean a huge number of jobs are being created."

While the employment picture should improve steadily, if unspectacularly, retailers' prospects are brightening, the economist noted. "There's a pent-up demand in the county for such items as furniture and cars. The auto malls in Oxnard and Thousand Oaks have been doing extremely well."

Schniepp expects retailing to be especially strong in Thousand Oaks, Oxnard, Simi Valley and Moorpark. "I'm not sure why, but sales in Moorpark showed an astounding increase of 55% in this year's first quarter compared to the same quarter in 1993. It's possible that people were buying merchandise to replace things that were damaged in the earthquake."

And, Schniepp recalled, the first quarter of 1993 was "very depressed," making the first three months of this year look especially rosy.

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