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Ventura County

Jobless Rate for County Rises

Employment: Experts say loss is only a seasonal blip. The local economy is still growing.

July 14, 2001|MARGARET TALEV | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A seasonal decline in farming jobs pushed Ventura County's unemployment rate in June to 4.1%, ending two months of record lows.

The county's economy is still in a growth mode, although at a decidedly slower pace than the boom years of the late 1990s.

"The growth rate has certainly moderated from two to three years ago," state labor market analyst Dee Johnson said. "But this doesn't indicate to me that any industry is in decline."

By May, the county's annual growth rate had slowed to 1.7%, about half the rate of a year before; by the end of last month, it was calculated at 1.4%.

The loss of 3,300 farming jobs in June was not unexpected, said Ventura County Farm Bureau President Bob Pinkerton.

"There's nothing dramatic taking place," Pinkerton said. "It's just getting toward the end of the season on some of the big crops. Lemons are going into the last part of the pick. Avocados have already pretty much been picked. Strawberries are finished."

A net gain of 500 nonfarm jobs helped counter the decline in agricultural work, according to information released Friday by the state Employment Development Department.

Construction jobs increased by 400. Jobs in county government, services, trade, transportation and public utilities all rose slightly, officials said.

As the summer season kicked in, however, jobs in education declined by 400.

The total number of jobs in the county stood at 302,000, a loss of 2,800 jobs from May, when unemployment was only 3.4%.

Still, last month's unemployment rate was the lowest June figure for the county since 1983, when such statistics were first tracked, Johnson said.

"The losses are in farming and education, and those are pretty predictable every May to June," Johnson said. "It's seasonal and it's very temporary."

Johnson also noted that there were 800 more farming jobs last month than in June 2000, when unemployment was 4.4%.

The county's unemployment rate for last month also was lower than the state's rate of 5.1%, or the nation's 4.7%.

Over the past year, the county has added 4,200 jobs across most sectors of the economy.

The number of manufacturing and federal government jobs declined slightly from June 2000 through the end of last month. However, Johnson said the number of federal jobs was inflated last summer because of temporary census workers.

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