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Santa Barbara County Unemployment Rate Returns to Pre-Recession Levels

The number of job seekers looking for employment dropped to levels not seen since July 2008 in Santa Barbara County, according to information released Friday by the state Employment Development Department.

These numbers have not been seen, in Santa Barbara County, since the beginning of the Great Recession.

The unemployment rate dropped to 5.4 percent in the county for April, from a revised 6.8 percent in March, and below the year-ago estimate of 6.3 percent. This compares with an unadjusted unemployment rate of 7.3 percent for California and 5.9 percent for the nation during the same period.

All local cities in Santa Barbara County decreased to single-digit unemployment numbers (for April) for the first time in many years. Solvang had one of the lowest unemployment rates in the county (with 2 percent), followed by Goleta (2.6 percent), Carpinteria (2.6 percent) and Santa Ynez (2.7 percent).

The labor force in the county, defined as the number of individual in the workforce looking for employment, grew by 400 job seekers. The decline in unemployment in cities such as Lompoc, Santa Maria and Solvang could be attributed to a decrease in their labor force. Other cities like Santa Barbara, Goleta and Montecito experience an increase in the number of job seekers.

Santa Maria had the most residents unemployed with 3,400 (8.6 percent of its workforce), followed by Santa Barbara city with 2,200 unemployed (3.8 percent of its workforce) and Lompoc with 2,000 residents looking for employment (9.7 percent).

The county’s unemployment ranking in April, compared to the other 57 counties in California, positioned Santa Barbara County now in ninth place behind Sonoma, Santa Clara and San Luis Obispo County.

Industry sectors in Santa Barbara County gained 5,600 jobs in April, 1,300 more than last month. Total Farm jobs experienced a significant improvement, gaining 2,500 positions for April. Leisure and Hospitality saw an increase for the month, adding 800 jobs; Professional and Business Services increased 200 position; Construction, Information, Financial Activities, and Educational and Health Services all gained 100 jobs each. The two industries that trimmed jobs for April included: Government with minus 200 and Manufacturing with 100 jobs lost.

“I am encouraged that the traditionally high sub-county areas, like Lompoc and Guadalupe, are now below 10 percent unemployment,” Santa Barbara County Workforce Investment Board Director Raymond  McDonald said. “The overall county low unemployment rate appears to be driven by the very low rates in Goleta (2.6 percent) and Santa Barbara City (3.8 percent).

“The low unemployment numbers for the county are consistent with the national figures that show a decrease in the number of new unemployment insurance claims being filed.”

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