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Thursday, January 7, 2021

Central Coast unemployment remains about twice as high as last year

Posted By on Thu, Jan 7, 2021 at 11:35 AM

While local employment has steadily improved since the spike in joblessness that occurred in April, the most recent data released by the state Employment Development Department (EDD) shows some stagnation. But state labor market consultant Andriy Moskalyk said it’s too early to say definitively whether this marks the beginning of a trend or if it’s temporary.

click to enlarge LEVELING OUT Recent data shows the unemployment rate slowed its rate of improvement on the Central Coast in November. - GRAPH COURTESY OF EDD
  • LEVELING OUT Recent data shows the unemployment rate slowed its rate of improvement on the Central Coast in November.
In November, Santa Barbara County’s unemployment rate was 5.8 percent, compared to 6.1 the month before. In SLO County, November saw a rate of 5.4 percent unemployment versus 5.9 in October. While the rates did tick down slightly, the decline was smaller than months prior, and both counties’ unemployment rates are still about double what they were this time last year.

Unemployment rates also stagnated in September. After months of consistent 1 to 2 percent improvements in the unemployment rate for both counties, suddenly the rate saw almost no change that month.

“But then [in October] it returned to the previous trend, so it went down by 1.2 percent,” Moskalyk said, meaning the slowed improvement was just temporary. Once December data is released, it will be easier to discern whether it’s “a one-time slowdown, or if it’s becoming a trend,” he said.

Job recovery varies depending on the industry. Industries like construction have seen some of the best job return among all sectors on the Central Coast. In Santa Barbara County, the construction industry even grew slightly year-over-year, employing 9,000 workers in November 2019 and 9,500 in November 2020. But industries like leisure and hospitality are still struggling. In November 2019, there were 28,200 Santa Barbara County residents employed in this sector, but in November 2020, just 23,600—indicating that the economy still faces a long road ahead.

Moskalyk added that the slow down in job recovery, whether it turns out to be temporary or a lasting trend, is probably not attributable to the state-issued stay-at-home order, given the way unemployment data is collected.

“The way households are contacted is they get a survey during the week of the month that includes the 12th of that month,” Moskalyk said. “So in November, the reference week would be the week of Nov. 8.”

The regional stay-at-home order wasn’t implemented until early December, so any effect it may have on employment wouldn’t be reflected until December data is released on Jan. 22. Even then, Moskalyk said, it may take a few months to fully understand the impact and identify clear trends in the data. ∆

—Malea Martin
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