The private sector is leading job-growth, anemic as it is, in Ventura County. More than 3,000 private-sector jobs have been created in the county over the last year, according to economists with the California Economic Forecast, which presented its twice-annual economic forecast for the county in Westlake Village on Sept. 8.
During that same time, the public sector downsized by about 2,800 jobs.
“The good news is, we don’t expect any relapse of the recession,” said Mark Schniepp, director of the Santa Barbara-based California Economic Forecast. “The bad news is, this is the recovery.”
Ventura County’s unemployment rate reached its peak in January 2010, topping out at 11.3 percent. Since then, it’s slowly inched down, although it spiked back up to 10.7 percent in July.
Job gains in the county for the remainder of 2011 will be moderate, Schniepp said, but are expected to be stronger by the first quarter of next year. “Job acceleration is long overdue,” he said. Thus far, the county’s professional services, manufacturing and leisure industries — adding 1,300, 1,100 and 1,000 jobs each, respectively— have led private-sector job growth.
As California continues to struggle with its state budget, government jobs are now the largest impediment to the labor market’s recovery, the forecast said.
Some bright spots in the outlook: Holiday spending this year is expected to be high, as consumers have been diligently stashing away cash savings for the past several years.
Corporate profits and expenditures are at all-time highs, and the county’s health care services remain in high demand.
California’s tourism industry has come roaring back, and retail and professional services are expected to follow. The recovery “comes down to the psyche of businesses and consumers,” who have money to spend, Schniepp said.
Another hint of better things to come: Staffing services employment is way up compared to last year, and that often precedes permanent hiring, according to the forecasters.
While the events leading up to the recession were the result of the collapse of the U.S. credit system, “the problem here is simply the collapse of confidence,” Schniepp said.
The stock market is jittery from continued aftershocks, consumers are unwilling to spend until the job-market shows some strong recovery, and businesses are in turn waiting for consumers to start buying again.
Still, Schniepp said, government stimulus has done all it can. “Governments needs to demonstrate some fiscal restraint, they need to provide credible stimulus plans, which they’re probably not capable of doing, or they need to let the private sector do it and get out of the way.”
Out of the 28 metropolitan statistical areas in California, Ventura County ranks 13th in terms of non-farm employment growth over the last 12 months. Population growth in the county did slow down this year, growing at just under 0.8 percent. But Schniepp’s team predicted that net migration — and overall population gains — will continue to rise, leveling off in 2016.
Between 2000 and 2010, Oxnard was the fastest-growing city in the county, growing by 39 percent. Simi Valley followed, at 18 percent. Those two cities are expected to remain the fastest-growing cities in the county over the next five years.