The tri-county region’s unemployment rate dipped below 6% in August for only the second time since the COVID-19 pandemic began, according to a Business Times analysis of data released Sept. 17 by the California Employment Development Department.
The combined unemployment rate for Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties was 5.9% in August, down from 6.1% in July. The only time regional unemployment has been lower since the pandemic began was in May of this year, when the tri-county rate was 5.6%.
All three counties have healthier job markets than the state as a whole, as they have throughout the pandemic; California’s unemployment rate was 7.5% in August, down from 7.6% in July.
Ventura County had the region’s highest unemployment rate in August, at 6.2%, down from 6.4% in July. Santa Barbara County’s unemployment rate was 5.5% in August, down from 5.8% the month before. San Luis Obispo County also had a 5.5% unemployment rate in August, down from 5.7% in July.
August’s improved employment picture was due to job growth in the state and the region. After losing jobs from June to July, the state gained 104,300 from July to August. California has now regained 62.1% of the 2.7 million jobs lost in March and April 2020 as the pandemic began, the Employment Development Department said.
Ventura County added 1,700 jobs between July and August, while Santa Barbara County added 1,300. San Luis Obispo County, though, lost 500 jobs in the month, and its unemployment rate only decreased because its workforce shrank.
Statewide, the biggest job growth came in the public sector, with 46,900 new government jobs. Leisure and hospitality added 33,100 jobs. Education and health services was the only sector with significant job losses, at 6,300 fewer jobs than the month before.
“California continues to lead the nation’s economic recovery, creating 44% of the nation’s new jobs in August and ranking third in the nation in rate of job growth this year,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a statement released Sept. 17. “We still have more work to do in regaining those jobs lost to the pandemic, but this is promising progress for California’s economic recovery.”
Rob Lapsely, the president of the California Business Roundtable, said the new jobs report shows California “is regaining jobs back at a healthy pace, even though we have the second-highest unemployment rate in the nation.” It’s concerning, though, that the jobs recovery is concentrated in high-wage and low-wage jobs, with little growth in middle-wage jobs, he said.
“We need to learn from our slow and prolonged Great Recession recovery and promote additional policies that encourage investment in middle-wage job growth and address the cost-of-living crisis,” Lapsely said in a statement released by the Business Roundtable. “Otherwise the pandemic recovery will only accelerate the two-tiered economy and reduce economic security and mobility for all Californians.”