Buoyed by a continuing rebound in the local economy and hundreds of new jobs in the service and farm industries, the Ventura County unemployment rate dropped to 7.6% in September, down half a point from the previous month, analysts said Friday.
In addition, more than 4,200 new jobs were created in Ventura County between September, 1994, and last month, according to the latest state Employment Development Department report.
The 7.6% unemployment rate is the lowest it has been in Ventura County since June, when it dropped to 6.9%.
Service-sector jobs recorded the sharpest gains across the county, jumping by 1,400 over the past 12 months. That gain accounts for about one-third of all new jobs reported in Ventura County.
Other industries also showed increases during the same 12-month period. Agriculture reported about 1,300 new jobs, transportation and public utilities were up 700 jobs, and the construction and wholesale trade industries grew by 600 jobs.
"That 4,200 figure is about as high as we've seen on a monthly basis," said Mark Schniepp, director of the UC Santa Barbara Economic Forecast Project, which studies the Ventura County economy.
While the half-point drop between August and September is significant, Schniepp said, more impressive is a 1.1% decrease between September, 1994, and last month.
"It shows a consistent upward trend in the labor market in Ventura County," he said. "And we're not seeing that same [long-term] trend in L.A. or Santa Barbara counties, the two that border Ventura County."
Both Los Angeles and Santa Barbara counties posted similar drops between August and September, however, with Los Angeles dipping 0.9% to 7.5% and Santa Barbara reporting a 0.3% decrease to 6.1%, state job analysts said.
An increasing population combined with a more attractive investment climate throughout Ventura County have helped create the new jobs locally, Schniepp said.
"The population continues to rise and populations need services," he said. "People need legal services, medical services."
There are 250,900 jobs in Ventura County, an increase of 1.7% from one year ago, the state employment report states.
About 13% of those positions--32,600--are in the public sector, including 26,700 jobs in local government, a 1.9% jump from the number of government workers employed in September, 1994.
Although the number of farm-related jobs dropped by 500 positions between August and September of this year, there were 1,300 more agricultural jobs than there were in September, 1994, a 7.7% rise, the report concluded.
But Rex Laird, executive director of the Ventura County Farm Bureau, said he expects the number of agricultural jobs to decrease as the weather turns cold and seasonal workers return home.
"September would be the typical start-up time for a lot of the vegetable industry, and it's the tail end of citrus and avocados as far as the producers are concerned," he said.
"This is the time of the year when a lot of the people will be laid off and they'll go to Mexico and come back again in the spring," he said. "It's a very traditional thing."
Once again, state labor analysts reported, manufacturing jobs dried up between September, 1994, and last month. More than 1,100 manufacturing or factory jobs disappeared in Ventura County over the past 12 months.
"But it certainly appears to be bottoming out," Schniepp said. "We don't look for durable manufacturing to be increasing any time soon, but the rate of decline has certainly come down in the last year."
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Ventura County Jobless Rate
September, 1995: 7.6%
Source: California Employment Development Department