Santa Barbara County’s unemployment rate improved slightly in March from a year ago, according to statewide data released Friday.
The county remained at an unadjusted 8.9 percent unemployment rate from February to March, but the figure is down 0.6 percent from March 2011’s 9.5-percent rate, according to the state Employment Development Department.
This compares with California’s 11.5 percent unemployment rate and the nation’s 8.4 percent rate.
“Job growth can follow the recovery process of peaks, valleys and consistent paths where you will see strong gains, a decrease and/or periods of steady-state progression,” Ray McDonald, Santa Barbara County Workforce Investment Board executive director, said in a news release. “Reflecting on the same time period last year, where the economy was shedding jobs in significant numbers, economic indicators continue to show a positive outlook for a strengthening job market.”
Santa Barbara County has the sixth-lowest unemployment rate out of California’s 58 counties; it was seventh last month. Marin County boasts the lowest unemployment rate at 7 percent but it also has a labor force of 137,900 compared to Santa Barbara’s 229,900.
There were 2,600 total jobs added locally from February to March and 6,300 year-to-date. Agriculture and leisure and hospitality experienced the biggest gains, according to the EDD.
From February to March has been an upward employment swing in farming, to 16,500 workers from 14,900; leisure and hospitality, to 21,600 from 21,000; and construction, to 6,500 from 6,400. Professional and business service jobs have increased to 25,800 from 23,400 year-to-date and the EDD estimates the fastest job growth in the technology industry.
There has been an employed workforce decrease in trade transportation and utilities, to 23,200 from 23,700; and professional services, to 25,900 from 25,800.
While the city of Santa Barbara remained at a 6.3 percent unemployment rate, other regions within the county are not doing as well. Lompoc has a 15.5 percent unemployment rate, Guadalupe is at 15.1 percent, Santa Maria is at 13.8 percent and Orcutt is at 9.9 percent.