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November Jobless Rate Soars to 7.5% in County : Economy: Agriculture, manufacturing and construction are hardest hit as 6,500 more people are thrown out of work. December’s news may be worse.

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The Ventura County unemployment rate soared to 7.5% in November--higher than the state and national averages--and economic experts said recessionary pressures may have pushed even more people out of work last month.

“Things are not getting any better,” said Richard L. Ball, senior vice president of Ventura County National Bank. “There’s been further erosion in the employment situation since November.”

According to the state Employment Development Department, the county’s unemployment rate jumped from 5.8% in October and 5.2% in November, 1989. The number of people out of work rose to 28,000 in November, 6,500 more than in the previous month.

The November jobless rate was a full percent higher than the statewide rate and far above the 5.8% national unemployment rate. None of the figures is adjusted for seasonal variations in the labor force.

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Linda Reed, a state labor market analyst, said agriculture, manufacturing and construction were the county’s hardest-hit industries. Holiday hiring in the retailing sector and a 600-job increase in state and local government failed to offset the losses in other areas.

The December freeze and its devastating effect on citrus and other crops were expected to send even greater numbers of farm workers to the unemployment line. In addition, several defense firms have announced layoffs since November unemployment statistics were compiled.

Avelina Villalobos, manager of the EDD’s north Oxnard office, said 9,739 people filed new unemployment claims in the last three months of 1990, up 27% from the same period a year ago. Her office handles claims for the Fillmore, Ojai, Santa Paula, Ventura and north Oxnard areas.

Dave Wuerth, assistant manager of the Ventura Chamber of Commerce, said many of the job losses could be linked to a recent drop in consumer spending.

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“People have been cautious because they’re concerned about their wages being cut or losing their jobs,” Wuerth said. “The oil industry is still in the doldrums and the defense industry has taken a turn for the worse here.”

Ball, who is conducting an economic survey of county businesses, said more than half of responding business owners have indicated that they feel a recession has taken hold.

The county’s strength is that the service businesses that make up its largest employment sector may be more capable of weathering a short-term economic slowdown. There are only 20 employers in the county with more than 1,000 workers, while there are 10,000 employers with 10 or fewer employees, he said.

“They are smaller and more resilient, and can be more inventive with how they deal with the downward trend,” Ball said. “We’re not dependent on any one single employer.”

Steve Rubenstein, president of the Conejo Valley Chamber of Commerce, said job losses may be offset within the next year with the relocation of two major businesses to the county and Proctor & Gamble’s expansion plans.

The highest unemployment rate in the state was in Imperial County near San Diego, where joblessness hit 20.3% in November. Marin County north of San Francisco posted the lowest rate, with 3%.


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