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Experts Predict Strong Employment Growth for Santa Barbara County Economy

UCSB Economic Forecast also calls it the 'least affordable county' in California with rising rents and home prices during annual event at Granada Theatre

Peter Rupert, UCSB economics professor and executive director of the university’s Economic Forecast, gives locals the lowdown Thursday on Santa Barbara County’s economic outlook.
Peter Rupert, UCSB economics professor and executive director of the university’s Economic Forecast, gives locals the lowdown Thursday on Santa Barbara County’s economic outlook. (Gina Potthoff / Noozhawk photo)

Everything is looking up in Santa Barbara County, where one economist says employment growth outpaces that of California, foreclosure rates are down and other positive trends put the county and the nation a cut above.

The rest of the world’s economy “kinda sucks,” said Peter Rupert, chair of UC Santa Barbara’s economics department and executive director of the UCSB Economic Forecast.

That was part of Rupert’s rundown Thursday during the 34th annual Santa Barbara County Economic Summit at the Granada Theatre, where hundreds gathered for an early morning breakfast and a lesson in economics.

Another forecast is planned for North County next Friday at the Radisson Santa Maria.

Unfortunately for listeners, numbers that are also going up are South Coast home prices and rental rates.

“Santa Barbara is the least affordable county in the state of California,” Rupert said, explaining that just 14 percent of residents can afford the median home price of $930,000.

The cost to rent in Santa Barbara has gone up nearly 35 percent since 2000, he said, with a 29 percent increase in Goleta.

Capital investments for small businesses was the topic of choice for UCSB Economic Forecast keynote speaker Mark Flannery, chief economist and director of the Division of Economic and Risk Analysis at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. (Gina Potthoff / Noozhawk photo)

Before Rupert shifted into local economics, attendees heard from keynote speaker Mark Flannery, chief economist and director of the Division of Economic and Risk Analysis at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. He talked about where small businesses can find capital and who should or shouldn’t invest.

The forecast then turned to a panel of social media experts, who offered insight into how to best use online platforms to market business in an ever-changing social landscape.

Data shows 74 percent of the U.S. population has social media accounts, said Matt Kautz, director of social media and analytics at Walt Disney Studios. He was joined by Lisa Jenkins, vice president of marketing and client services at Los Angeles-based The Marketing Distillery, and Bloomberg View columnist Megan McArdle.

Local employment gains have come in industries already embracing social media. Leisure and hospitality and education and health services have seen the biggest gains, but Rupert cautioned that those occupations, like many soon-to-be-created jobs, won’t pay much.

"Most new jobs won’t require more education,” he said. “How we can get more high-paying jobs is always a big question.”

The number of local sales jobs has decreased, while farm and labor workers still account for the highest employment countywide.

Rupert said the majority of the largest industries pay employees less than $40,000 a year.

“We’re going to create a lot of bad jobs, and, by the way, it always happens,” he said.

Potential risks Rupert said to watch for in 2015 included the world’s economy not recovering, cyclical oil prices and impacts from the ongoing drought.

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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