Ventura County’s economic recovery is lagging behind that of the rest of the Golden State.
That was the view from Mark Schniepp, director of the Santa Barbara-based California Economic Forecast in a Sept. 6 outlook for Ventura County.
Ventura County has seen negative net migration in its population figures for seven out of the last eight years, he said. Although the population overall has climbed, largely due to higher birth rates in Oxnard, Simi Valley and Thousand Oaks, total employment in Ventura County has decreased by 23,000 over the last decade.
And the county’s job numbers are more volatile than California’s on average ― a chart of the job creation shows non-farm employment figures up one month, down the next.
Schniepp said California is on track to continue creating jobs at a healthy clip, with a likely employment peak in 2014 or 2015. “These will be service-oriented companies and high-tech companies,” he said. State and local government job cuts are likely dissipating as well.
Ventura County still has a lot of ground to make up. Even by 2015, the county’s unemployment rate will likely still be much higher than it was for the first part of the 2000s, Schniepp said.
In contrast to Ventura County’s sluggish and sporadic recovery, California has created more than 400,000 private-sector jobs in the last six months, Schniepp said. “We don’t detect that kind of recovery in Ventura County,” Schniepp said. “At least not yet.”
His forecast for the state and Ventura County predicts that construction and manufacturing, both sectors that have been hard-hit around the country, will not be making eye-popping comebacks. “Construction will turn around, but not to where it was” before the recession, he said.
With the exception of high-tech work including semiconductor manufacturing, labor in U.S. factories has likely been forever displaced by skilled machinery and offshore jobs, he said.
There is a silver lining. Employment in computer systems design in California is at an all-time high. Architecture, design and professional services, including business consulting, are also doing well.
“Education, then, becomes a critical component for the work force going forward,” Schniepp said.
The biotechnology and health care industries ― by far the largest sources of private-sector jobs in Ventura County ― are on track to eclipse previous employment highs in California, he said.
Ventura County has seen a flurry of plant closings and businesses moving out of the area or downsizing in recent months. Those companies include SolarWorld, WellPoint, Amgen and International Paper. Schniepp offered some reassurances to the audience at the Hyatt Westlake Plaza in Westlake Village, a crowd largely made up of commercial real estate brokers: “I think these [downsizings] are extraordinary ― I don’t think they’ll continue.”