The number of unemployed workers in Ventura County inched downward to 9.3% in October but remained level with last year’s rate, state economists reported Monday, leaving some analysts pessimistic about a turnaround in the local job market any time soon.
The unemployment rate sank slightly from 9.4% in September to 9.3% in October--the level of October, 1992--with nearly one in 10 Ventura County workers unemployed, according to the state Employment Development Department.
The job market in Ventura County remains bleak in comparison to the rest of the nation, said Mark Schniepp, who tracks the economy in Ventura County and elsewhere as part of an economic forecasting project for UC Santa Barbara.
As residents and companies in Ventura County join a statewide exodus of jobs and employers, few new companies are moving into the county to take their place, Schniepp said.
“We can look for higher unemployment rates to persist for quite some time,” Schniepp said. “These are some of the highest rates that Ventura County has seen.”
Workers like Terry DeVries--laid off last week by Litton Industries in Simi Valley after 10 years of engineering on warplane guidance systems--continued to line up for unemployment benefits.
“I know people who were laid off (from Litton) a year ago and are still looking for work,” said DeVries, 51, of Westlake Village. He worried that being over 40 and unable to move his entire family elsewhere could keep him jobless for a long time.
Applying for unemployment benefits “is sort of demeaning,” said Phil Shockley, 36, seeking benefits Monday at the Simi Valley unemployment office. “It’s sort of like applying for welfare.”
Shockley, a Newbury Park real estate photographer, said he quit his job Monday morning after his employers failed to pay him last week. He remained optimistic about his chances for employment. “I know it’s really tough,” he said. “But I never seem to have much of a problem finding work.”
The two men joined 36,400 county residents who were counted by the Employment Development Department as unemployed in October.
Countywide, the number of employed workers rose from 347,200 in October, 1992, to 347,300 in September of this year and 356,100 in October. The county’s population growth accounted for the increase over last year, and the rise since last month was caused by the return of teachers, school employees and employees in the finance and real estate fields, the report said.
But between October, 1992, and October, 1993, the county’s list of unemployed workers rose by 1,000, from 35,400 to 36,400, and the county lost 2,900 non-agricultural jobs, nearly half of them in manufacturing, the report said.
And while the U.S. unemployment rate fell from 6.8% in October, 1992, to 6.3% in October, 1993, Ventura County’s unemployment rate remained near the 9.3% mark.
That matched the rate posted last year by the state of California, which went from 9.3% in October, 1992, to 9.4% in October, 1993.
But the holiday season may signify a bright spot for some unemployed workers, analysts said.
Jobs will increase slightly next month as retailers hire more people to manage the Christmas buying rush, forecasters said.
Then they will decrease somewhat more sharply as the holiday season ends, as Ventura County’s agricultural employers shed workers they hired to handle the autumn harvest season, and as the building industry enters its winter lull, Schniepp said.
But the overall unemployment rate will remain steadily high as employers such as government and heavy industry continue layoffs, he said.
However, another analyst predicted that the nearly stagnant unemployment rate indicates that the Southern California economy may have bottomed out.
Like Ventura County, “none of the other counties are any better than they were a year ago in terms of unemployment,” said Bruce DeVine, chief economist for the Southern California Assn. of Governments.
“The Southern California economy seems to be holding its own,” DeVine said. “The weaknesses are in heavy industry and durable goods.”
All the statistics boil down to one concern for Dawn Chirigotis, a 36-year-old Simi Valley resident who is seven months pregnant--finding her next job.
Laid off recently as production coordinator from a catalogue sales company, Chirigotis said Monday her job search has been hard.
“I’ve been making phone calls, but when I walk in some places and they see my stomach, they say, ‘Whoa,’ ” she said with a smile. “Thank God my husband works, but it’s hard to go from two incomes to one.”