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Wednesday, January 23 , 2019, 8:46 am | Fair 41º


UCSB’s Economic Forecast Project Presents 37th Annual Economic Summit

Unemployment rate in Santa Barbara County declined to 3.9 percent in 2017; growth rate of housing prices has slowed significantly

Three people on stage at Granada Theatre Click to view larger
Tuesday’s Economic Forecast Summit in Santa Barbara concluded with a panel discussion among the speakers including, from left, writer and political commentator Amity Shlaes; Megan McArdle, columnist for the Washington Post; and Peter Rupert, executive director of the Forecast Project. (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk photo)

The unemployment rate in Santa Barbara County declined to 3.9 percent in 2017, according to a new UC Santa Barbara forecast.

Meanwhile, the county’s housing prices have increased over the last five years or so.

And the growth rate of housing prices has slowed significantly in the county to 3.8 percent, compared to the nearly 9 percent growth rate in the state and 7 percent nationally.

These were some of the findings offered in the outlook for the county prepared by the UCSB Economic Forecast Project.

Hundreds of people filled the Granada Theatre in downtown Santa Barbara on Tuesday during the 37th Santa Barbara County Economic Summit, where the annual assessment was provided.

According to the statistical forecast, the county’s overall employment for all industries grew by more than 2,500 jobs in 2017, a gain of 1.26 percent. 

The unemployment rate in the county dropped to 3.9 percent in 2017. The unemployment rate declined in all cities across the county.

The city of Goleta had the county’s lowest unemployment rate at 2.39 percent, while Lompoc had the highest, at 5.23 percent.

Additional unemployment rates included in the report were Solvang and Santa Maria at 4.87 percent; Buellton, 2.53 percent. Unemployment rates in the other cities in the county range between 3.19 to 3.85 percent.

Leisure and hospitality is a relatively large employer in both Santa Barbara and the Santa Ynez Valley.

Employment in Santa Maria is largely from agriculture, fishing and hunting, and forestry.

Peter Rupert, executive director of the UCSB Economic Forecast Project Click to view larger
Peter Rupert, executive director of the UCSB Economic Forecast Project speaks Tuesday in Santa Barbara (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk photo)

Goleta has the largest share of employment in durable manufacturing, according to the report. 

Real estate is also noted in the report.

The median home price for the county ($581,000) grew 6 percent over the last year.

The rate was slightly lower than the state’s growth in 2017 (8.7 percent).

Residential building activity in the county increased in 2017 from 971 units permitted to 1,410, for both single-family and multi-family unit permits, according to the report’s authors.

Eighteen percent of county residents were able to afford the median-priced house, compared to 29 percent of California residents, and 56 percent nationally.

Last year, 21 percent of Santa Barbara County residents were able to afford the median-priced house.

“Santa Barbara County, like much of California, has a housing affordability crisis that is getting worse each year,” the report continues. “Many experts believe that the economy will remain strong through 2018, creating additional demand for rental housing.”

Peter Rupert, executive director of the UCSB Economic Forecast Project, highlighted retail data in Santa Barbara, among other topics.

“My guess is that retail is going to pick up speed,” Rupert said. “Retail is not dead. It’s changing.”

According to the report, "looking outside of the State Street core, Santa Barbara retail leasing is in good shape. The former Macy's building at Paseo Nuevo and the Saks Off 5th building represent 48 percent of available space in Santa Barbara. Excluding those two buildings, the Santa Barbara vacancy rate is 2.0 percent, which is typical historically."

Retail sales in the county grew in 2016, according to the report. 

With 19.3 percent of total taxable sales, food services and drinking establishment remain the largest industry in the county.

The city of Guadalupe (2.4 percent) and Santa Maria (1.9 percent) had the highest growth in taxable sales in the county. Santa Barbara (-1.1 percent) and Carpinteria (-3.5 percent) were the only cities to experience a decline.

Tuesday's event also included five guest speakers and concluded with a panel discussion among the presenters.

This year's event — themed “Trade: Can’t live with it, can’t live without it” — highlighted trade with foreign countries, the North American Free Trade Agreement, the cost and benefit of trade and budget deficits, cross-border trade and travel, and immigrant labor markets.

Addressing the group were Megan McArdle, columnist for the Washington Post; writer and political commentator Amity Shlaes; Mexico's former foreign minister, Jorge Castañeda; and Roberto Rodriguez Hernandez, consul of Mexico for the Tri-Counties region.

The UCSB Economic Forecast Project was established in 1981 by the Department of Economics to provide the community with information on demographic, economic and regional business trends.

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland 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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