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County Economy Rebounds, Study Says

Ventura County’s economy continued its slow but steady recovery last year with sales up but job growth still flat, a survey of 502 county businesses showed.

In a survey by Ventura County National Bank, more companies reported sales increases than decreases for the first time since 1990.

“This may be the first clear sign that Ventura County’s economy has turned the corner,” wrote Lee Torrence, the bank’s advertising and public relations director.

“People’s perceptions are that we are finally coming out of this (recession),” Torrence said.

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Most of the businesses responding said the economy was in better shape in 1994 than 1993, but said there is still room for improvement.

“Our economy isn’t booming, but it has recovered since 1993,” Conejo Valley Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Steve Rubenstein said. Conejo chamber membership stands at 1,250, up 100 from three years ago but down from the chamber’s peak of 1,675 in 1989, said Communications Manager Gary Koppenjan.

“Generally, our membership reflects the economy,” Koppenjan said.

Despite the modest gains, the survey showed no job growth in the county.

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“There are still problems in Ventura County,” said Mark Schniepp, director of the Economic Forecast Project at UC Santa Barbara. Schniepp watches the county’s economy closely and issues an annual report.

“The labor market has not begun to grow,” he said. “By now, we thought we would see it.”

Schniepp said companies who laid off employees the past four years are now reluctant to rehire. “They’ve gotten rid of their dead weight,” he said.

But Rubenstein said government regulations are preventing job growth in Ventura County. It is tougher to lay off full-time employees than it was four years ago, Rubenstein said. Therefore, employers are slow to hire full-time employees for fear the economy will turn soft again, he said.

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“To allay their fears, they are hiring more part-time workers,” Rubenstein said.


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