The late December freeze that destroyed millions of dollars worth of crops was the last of a series of blows to Ventura County’s economy in 1990.
First came a collapse in home sales. By year’s end, the median price of a home was $12,000 less than a year earlier; the 8,002 home sales in the first nine months of 1990 were 3,139 fewer than the previous year. “Home for Sale” signs were topped with “Price Reduced” signs.
The county lost 2,200 jobs when Raytheon closed a missile-tracking equipment plant in Oxnard and Northrop announced plans to shut down its Newbury Park plant.
Retail stores reported sluggish sales all year, and the Christmas buying bonanza that some were counting on never happened.
Most stores said 1990’s holiday receipts would be less than the previous year’s.
No sector of the economy suffered a bigger blow than agriculture, one of the county’s largest industries with $806 million in receipts in 1989.
In a few chilly December nights, more than $100 million worth of avocados, oranges, strawberries and other fruits were destroyed.
With winter just beginning, growers were worried that more subfreezing weather would affect future crops by damaging or killing trees. Layoffs were already starting among farm workers, and canneries and packinghouses eventually are expected to feel the pinch.
Tourism remained a bright spot in the county’s economy.
Visitors spent $444 million in the county in 1989, and 1990’s total is expected to top that.
Experts expect the real estate slump to continue well into 1991.
If the drought persists, look for cutbacks in agriculture and related industries, as well as continued bars to development in water-short areas.
A war in the Persian Gulf would likely hurt consumer confidence and result in less spending on retail goods and services, which provide more than 40% of the county’s jobs.