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Ventura County

Report Shows Plenty of Jobs

County unemployment rate rose slightly in October compared with last year, but is still low.

November 09, 2002|Amanda Covarrubias | Times Staff Writer

Ventura County posted its third-lowest October unemployment rate in 20 years last month, indicating that just about anyone in the county who wants to work can find a job, an economic analyst said Friday.

"People are fully employed," said Mark Schniepp, director of the California Economic Forecast Project at UC Santa Barbara.

The October rate was 5.4%, compared with 4.9% a year ago, when the county was enjoying a robust economic rebound.

The number of jobs in the county dropped by 2,800 between October 2001 and 2002, with most of the decline in farm work.

In nonfarm jobs, five areas posted declines. The service industry lost 800 jobs, construction 400, manufacturing 300, wholesale trade 300 and transportation and public utilities 100.

But other areas saw an increase during the same period. Finance, insurance and real estate, all lumped into a single industry category by statisticians, saw a rise of 500 jobs, while government also rose by 500 jobs and retail grew by 400 jobs.

"Real estate is going really nuts right now, and it's contributing a little bit to jobs," Schniepp said.

Although people are working, Ventura County isn't experiencing dynamic job growth because its costly housing market is blunting expansion by private companies, Schniepp said.

"Why is it that in a time of low unemployment, we're also seeing low job gains?" Schniepp said. "You would see more jobs being created right now, I imagine, if we had housing that was more affordable. You can't hire the people who already live here because they already have jobs."

The median home price in Ventura County is $333,000.

"When the economy picks up nationwide and statewide, Ventura County firms are going to need to grow and hire," Schniepp said. "It hasn't hit yet, but they'll be facing some very tough decisions about whether to stay in Ventura County or move. There will be more defections over time if the housing crisis continues."

The county ranks 21st in joblessness among the state's 58 counties. October's unemployment rate was 6.2% statewide and 5.3% nationally.

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