Despite strong job growth in the manufacturing and retail sectors, a seasonal cut in farm labor helped bump Ventura County’s unemployment rate up half a percentage point in June.
According to a monthly job tally compiled by the state’s Employment Development Department, unemployment stood at 4.5% last month with the loss of more than 1,600 farm jobs.
The increase was anticipated, analysts said, adding that the local rate continues to hover at near-record lows and that last month’s rate was the lowest for June since 1983.
“If you look back 16 years, every single June there has been an increase [in unemployment],” said department labor market analyst Dee Johnson. “It’s a normal cycle that we see.”
The bulk of employment growth last month occurred in the manufacturing sector and particularly in nondurable goods such as food packaging, publishing and apparel. More than 700 jobs were created in manufacturing.
Continued consumer confidence and freer spending habits helped the local retail sector increase its payrolls by about 300.
Payroll increases were also recorded in finance, insurance and real estate sectors.
Falling well below the state’s 5.3% unemployment rate, Ventura County ranked 18th among California’s 58 counties in employment.
The area has a work force totaling nearly 400,000 people, of which about 17,000 are unemployed.
In the more telling year-to-year comparisons, the local unemployment rate has dropped one-half a percentage point with creation of more than 9,400 jobs between June 1998 and last month.
The industries that recorded the greatest growth included construction and nondurable goods manufacturing, both of which increased their labor force 20%.
Local education, which last June employed about 18,000 people, added another 2,700 workers over the year.
Business services also increased workers by 2,000, or 9.5%.
Even June’s big loser, agriculture, had a yearly job-loss total of just 100.
“These are good numbers,” Johnson said. “We’re at that near-historic low for unemployment and the kind of growth we’re seeing over the year is very strong.”
The county is on a pace to beat last year’s record-setting jobs total, said Mark Schniepp, director of the UC Santa Barbara Economic Forecast Project.
He anticipates that 9,000 to 10,000 nonfarm jobs will be created in the area by year’s end, making it the most active year of the 1990s.
Most of that job creation, he said, is in education, business services, nondurable goods manufacturing and wholesale and retail sales.
“There are very few negatives in this picture and what negatives there are, are so minor they might even be errors,” Schniepp said. “The kind of growth we’re seeing is across the board, in a lot of different sectors, which is tremendously healthy.”
Although he and many other economists had predicted a cooling in the jobs market in 1999, Schniepp said there is little on the horizon that leads him to believe the economy, now growing at a rate of about 3.7%, will begin to slow any time soon.
Consumer confidence remains high, interest rates and inflation are low, and business is expanding at a rate at or above last year’s record-setting pace.
“The big news is that the momentum is still there,” Schniepp said.
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Ventura County Jobless Rate
June 1999: 4.5%
Source: California Employment Development Department