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The Region

Ventura County Loses Jobs for an 8th Month

Unemployment rate for August rises to 5.8% from July's 5.6%. But that is an improvement from a year ago and is better than state and national statistics.

September 13, 2003|Gregory W. Griggs | Times Staff Writer

More than 24,000 Ventura County residents were out of work last month in the eighth straight month of job losses, which placed the county's unemployment rate at 5.8% in August.

The rate is up from a revised 5.6% in July, but that is an improvement over the year-ago rate of 6.2%. And local joblessness remains less than elsewhere. California had an unadjusted unemployment rate of 6.5% in August, while the nation posted 6%.

Still, this uninterrupted period of job loss concerns one local economist, who said a turnaround wasn't likely before next year.

"These figures are rather disturbing.... I don't see one bright spot on this whole sheet of data," said Bill Watkins, executive director of UC Santa Barbara Forecast.

"The next six to eight months are going to be pretty tough for Ventura County in terms of jobs."

According to the monthly labor report released Friday by the state Employment Development Department, the 5,900 jobs lost last month came from across the board. As summer wound down, there were 3,500 fewer farm workers compared with July 1, 300 fewer government jobs and 200 fewer jobs each in manufacturing and publishing and telecommunications.

But the monthly loss of 300 white-collar business and professional positions is an especially worrisome sign, Watkins said.

"These are relatively well-paying jobs at the core of our economy," he said. "

Watkins said he expected additional job losses among government workers and thought finance, insurance and real estate would experience more cutbacks.

But even with the loss of jobs, Ventura County has survived the recession better than other parts of California and is making a slow but steady recovery, said Mark Schniepp, director of the California Economic Forecast in Santa Barbara.

For perspective, he noted that Ventura County's jobless rate is still considered near full employment -- "any skilled worker who wants a job should be able to find one."

In a midyear update of his 2003 Ventura County economic forecast, Schniepp said this week that the labor market has remained stagnant for more than a year and was currently off about 1.7% for the year. There were 3,600 fewer jobs in the county last month than in January and there are 4,900 fewer jobs today than in August 2002.

Certain employment categories were hiring more this August compared with last August -- retailers, utilities, transportation and manufacturing -- but sizable losses in construction, professional and business services and government overshadowed those gains.

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