Jobs have become the No. 1 issue for economic recovery, and it would be hard to fault the region’s businesses for not doing their share.
In yet another sign of how the private-sector has been leading the Golden State out of its deep recession, data released as part of the recent Economic Forecast Breakfast at California Lutheran University showed that Venture County’s private employers added more than 4,600 jobs last year.
Across our region, businesses have been in a hiring mood. In Santa Barbara County, private employers created roughly 2,000 jobs between December 2010 and December 2011. And in San Luis Obispo County, where state and local government is a bigger factor in the overall picture, 500 private sector jobs were added.
This is particularly impressive for two reasons.
• First, as CLU economist Bill Watkins observed at the breakfast, many of the 257,000 jobs gained nationally in a strong January report are being added at very large businesses. Because our region’s employment base is comprised mainly of smaller companies, the fact that jobs are being added in the Central Coast speaks to the fact that our recovery may be more advanced and broadly based than in other parts of the state and nation.
• Second is the fact that job growth is happening despite regulatory burdens that California places on businesses trying to add employees. Soaring rates for worker’s compensation, unemployment insurance and health care all must be taken into account when an employer decides to hire. Then there are California’s tough work rules, environmental restrictions and other regulations that add costs to payrolls.
The salient takeaway from these reports is that the job gains probably understate the underlying strength of the recovery taking place in the region’s economy. That’s because any hiring at all in the private sector requires much more confidence among employers than the superficial data would indicate.
The job gains in the private sector stand in sharp contrast to the public sector, which has been shedding employment due mainly to California’s budget crisis. There is the possibility that folks laid off from government work will find employment in the private sector or start new businesses that add to the state’s recovery.