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County Jobless Rate Has Its Ups and Downs : Unemployment: From 7.6% in December, the figure hit 9.7% in January, only to drop again in February. In that period, 1,600 new jobs were added.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Ventura County’s unemployment rate has zigzagged dramatically in the last three months, reaching a high of 9.7% in January before dropping again to 8.8% in February.

Those numbers compared to a 9% unemployment rate in January, 1993, and an 8.3% rate in February, 1993. The county had a 7.6% jobless rate in December, 1993.

The state Employment Development Department, grappling with a new federal method of determining employment, released January and February unemployment figures at the same time this month.

For the first time since 1964, the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics revised its household questionnaire in an attempt to make unemployment statistics better reflect the labor of part-time and temporary workers.

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Analysts said they expected unemployment numbers to rise in January and February because the new method of questioning is more precise.

Despite the erratic statistics, Larry Kennedy, manager of the state unemployment office in Simi Valley, said the employment picture seems to be brightening.

Six to 10 unsolicited job listings are rolling into the office each day, he said. Though most of the jobs advertised pay only $5 to $7 per hour, “it is an encouraging sign,” he said. “I think over the next four months, we will see a gradual improvement” in the overall job picture.

Indeed, Ventura County already gained 1,600 new, non-agricultural jobs from January to February, 1994, a .7% improvement.

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Government added the most new jobs, followed by services, construction and wholesale trade. With the end of the holiday season, the retail trade sector lost the most jobs--1,100 positions.

Meanwhile, jobless claims at the Simi Valley unemployment office shot up in late January and early February as a result of the devastating Northridge earthquake, Kennedy said.

“The earthquake skewed everything so badly,” he said. “We had 3,277 people who filed because of the earthquake.”

Including the self-employed, the number of quake victims registering for new benefits climbed to nearly 4,000, he said. Many people, however, went back to work when their workplaces reopened a few weeks later, he added.

Over the entire past year, Ventura County lost 2,000 jobs from February, 1993, to February, 1994. Most of the losses were in retail trade, manufacturing and construction, partly offset by gains in services, finance, insurance and real estate, and government.

Lori Moschetto is one of those 2,000 workers whose job just disappeared. Formerly a clerk in the county library, Moschetto’s job was slashed along with the library budget last year. She’s been unsuccessfully chasing down want ads ever since.

“It’s been tough,” she said. “I look at three or four per week, and clerical jobs go so quickly. A lot of places say they can’t take any more applications.”

Moschetto, 33, like many people filing claims in the Ventura unemployment office Wednesday, said she is enrolling in community college because she worries that without a degree she may never face a stable employment future.

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A year and a half without a job has also convinced Berta Ramirez, 33, of Fillmore, that she needs more education. Since being laid off from her factory job at Bugle Boy in September, 1992, the mother of two has had no luck on the job market.

This, she said, is her new plan: Get a job--any job--during the day, and go to trade school at night, until she has learned a skill.

“What I’d like is to go to school to learn something,” she said. “Maybe learn to do hair--I’m not sure.”

FYI

Today is the last day for Ventura County residents put out of work by the Northridge quake and aftershocks to file federal disaster unemployment relief claims. For more information, call the Simi Valley Employment Development Department office at 522-6760, the Oxnard office at 485-5665, or the Ventura office at 654-6900.


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