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Ventura County unemployment dips to 8.6%
[December 21, 2012]

Ventura County unemployment dips to 8.6%

Dec 21, 2012 (Ventura County Star - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- The Ventura County unemployment rate edged down to 8.6 percent in November from a revised 8.7 percent the previous month, with 1,500 nonfarm jobs added, the state Employment Development Department reported Friday.

State unemployment also decreased, to 9.8 percent in November from 10.1 percent in October. There were 3,800 nonfarm payroll jobs lost statewide last month. The state jobless rate showed a marked improvement from 11.3 percent in November 2011.

Likewise, Ventura County unemployment has progressed from 9.5 percent in November 2011. The county's biggest job gains last month were in the trade, transportation and utilities, with 2,400 jobs added month over month, which was partly offset by job losses in professional and business services, 900, and education and health services, 400.

Job growth was described as "modest," by Steve Levy, director of the Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy in Palo Alto.

Levy said future expansion will depend on the national and world economy. He expects California will outpace the national average in employment gains based on "the continuing surge in tech employment and new leases and building by tech companies in the Bay Area." National unemployment was 7.7 percent in November, down from 7.9 percent the previous month.

As the housing market heals, Levy expects that will boost residential building. He noted improvements in tourism, agriculture and exports also will contribute to growth.

November's downward trend can be seen in the seasonal hiring numbers, which show 1,000 jobs added in clothing and accessories and it's likely we'll see unemployment rise again in January as the holiday jobs fall off, said Kirk Lesh, an economist at California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks.

Still, Lesh said the local labor market shows clear improvement.

That's evident in the year over year numbers for November, which show a gain of 4,400 nonfarm jobs, led by professional and business services, 2,000, and leisure and hospitality, 1,900. There also was a 1,300 jump in seasonal farm jobs, boosting total employment in that sector to 25,200. "There's definitely a downward trend with the unemployment rate in Ventura County," he said. "It's probably not as fast as people would like, particularly if you're unemployed. But any improvement in the unemployment rate should be viewed as good." In the Ventura County offices of Robert Half International Inc., Regional Vice President Chris Garza saw a growth in demand for employees after the election.

"I think companies were waiting to see how it turned out," he said. "Since then, we've seen a nice increase in our job flow." There's high demand for recent college graduates, especially those with accounting and finance degrees, Garza said. Another thing that's happening locally is people are leaving positions for higher-paying jobs.

"I think the demand for talent is very much out there and when someone has the skill set, companies want to pay a little more for that," Garza said.

The number of unemployed county residents seeking work was 38,000 in November, down 2,900 from a year ago. Of those, 7,194 who have been out of work 75 to 99 weeks will lose their federal unemployment benefits as of Dec. 29, if Congress and the president don't take action.

Statewide, an estimated 400,000 long-term unemployed people have been notified that their federal extension benefits will soon end.

"Without an extension, unemployment benefits would return to pre-recession benefit durations of six months," said Dan Stephens, a spokesman for the state EDD.

During the past four and a half years, $40 billion in extension benefits have been paid to the long-term unemployed in California.

___ (c)2012 Ventura County Star (Camarillo, Calif.) Visit Ventura County Star (Camarillo, Calif.) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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