Santa Barbara County’s unadjusted unemployment rate dropped to 7.7 percent in April, which is down 0.8 percent from a year ago, according to statewide data released Friday.
April’s unemployment rate decreased 1.2 percent from last month, according to the Employment Development Department. The county’s labor force added 2,700 jobs in April and a total of 4,700 jobs this year. Agriculture, business support services, retail and the service industry are the sectors that have improved the most year-to-date.
A good barometer of the local economy’s health is the business support services; the macro-economy tends to mirror its trend, BW Research Partnership Inc. President Josh Williams said at the Workforce Investment Board’s Santa Barbara County Employment Forecast last week.
He said he expects the technology, energy and building industries to grow the most in the next three years.
On the other hand, he added, the public sector is downsizing, retail is sputtering, transportation jobs are decreasing and the construction industry is rebounding very slowly.
“Today’s numbers are a positive sign in a recovering economy and consistent with what we hear from the business community about their hiring trends.” said Raymond McDonald, executive director of the Santa Barbara County Workforce Investment Board. “Perhaps most encouraging for the county are those communities that have had prolonged higher unemployment are now starting to see their numbers decrease. The challenge is to keep this momentum through workforce training and development while implementing economic vitality programs that will continue to grow the job market.”
McDonald was referencing the North County, which has experienced double-digit unemployment rates for months. Lompoc reported a drop of 1.9 percent to 13.6 percent; Guadalupe and Santa Maria both reported a decrease of 1.7 percent to 13.2 percent and 12.1 percent, respectively.
“There is an opportunity in some sectors but there is a miss in skill sets, so that’s what we’re trying to do is get some alignment and educate people in the right field for the jobs available,” Express Employment Professionals owner Karen Dwyer told Noozhawk last week. “It’s a constantly changing market.”
Santa Barbara County’s unemployment rate is the fifth lowest out of 57 counties in the state. California’s unadjusted unemployment rate was 10.5 percent in April, compared with 7.7 percent nationwide.
But the biggest increase in employment is coming from low-paying jobs, McDonald told Noozhawk at last week’s forecast.
“In order to move to better-paying jobs, there needs to be training and knowledge of where the jobs are and where the skill sets are,” he said. “It’s not so much about occupations anymore; it’s about skill sets. If you have the right skill sets you can move into the better-paying jobs.”