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Santa Barbara County Jobless Rate Improves to 9.6% in February

California unemployment dips to 12.2%, but state rate is still nation's second highest

California’s unemployment rate dipped slightly to 12.2 percent in February as the state added 96,500 jobs last month. In Santa Barbara County, officials reported a rate of 9.6 percent, an improvement from 10 percent in January.

The state Employment Development Department announced Friday that California’s jobless rate had edged down by two-tenths of a percent last month, to 12.2 percent. The addition of 96,500 jobs is the state’s largest one-month gain in more than 20 years.

Despite the good news, California’s unemployment rate is still the second highest in the nation, behind Nevada’s 13.6 percent. Officials add that the recession has erased more than 1 million jobs in the Golden State. Nationally, February’s jobless rate was 9.5 percent, according to the Labor Department.

The EDD said Santa Barbara County showed employment improvement in nearly every area. Out of a workforce of 217,100, the EDD said the county had 20,900 unemployed in February.

Officials said 200 jobs were added in both the agriculture and the administrative, support and waste services sectors, the two biggest areas of growth. The biggest losses were in local county government, which shed 600 jobs.

“It’s encouraging to see the decrease in the unemployment rate returning,” said Ray McDonald, executive director of the Santa Barbara County Workforce Investment Board, which tracks labor market trends and provides regional workforce research and training.

”Interestingly, there has been virtually no change in the combined retail trades from last year. This may be an indicator that the economy is still struggling and people are still concerned about their future employment and personal spending potential.”

Solvang (3.7 percent), Carpinteria and Goleta (4.8 percent each) and Santa Ynez (4.9 percent) sported the lowest unemployment rates in the county, the EDD said.

Santa Barbara’s jobless rate improved to 6.9 percent in February from 7.1 percent in January. Buellton recorded 7 percent, Santa Maria improved to 14.9 percent from 15.5 percent and Guadalupe’s was 16.3 percent. Lompoc, which historically has the county’s highest unemployment, improved to 16.7 percent from a high of 17.4 percent in January, the EDD said.

“All of Santa Barbara County rebounded in February,” McDonald said. “This indicates that we are all experiencing some recovery and even some moderate growth in certain industry sectors.”

Meanwhile, the number of people applying for unemployment benefits dropped by 5,000 to a seasonally adjusted 382,000 last week, the Labor Department said. That total for the week ended March 19 was the fourth decline in five weeks.

Noozhawk publisher Bill Macfadyen can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.

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