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Job loss rate slowing

Posted: May 22, 2009 9:55 p.m.
Updated: May 23, 2009 4:55 a.m.
Santa Clarita, along with the rest of Los Angeles County, experienced a decline in unemployment rates for April.

The city of Santa Clarita's rate dropped down to 6.6 percent from 7 percent in March. The county's rate fell from 11.3 percent in March to 11.0 percent in April, according to Friday's numbers from California's Employment Development Department.

The last time Santa Clarita saw a decline in unemployment was in September 2008 as it fell to 5.0 percent from 5.2 percent in August, according to Jason Crawford, the city's economic development and marketing manager.

Historically, the city's rate has hovered at around 3 percent.

Crawford said while "it'd be tough to say (Santa Clarita) is out of the woods," he does believe signs of recovery are evident.

"In Santa Clarita, our unemployment had been comparatively lower than other areas historically, because while we have been losing some jobs, we've also been gaining some," Crawford said. "So I think what we're seeing now is a continued growth of new jobs with a slowing of losing jobs."

A couple of stores which opened in The Plaza at Golden Valley, including McDonald's and PetSmart, could have contributed to the positive offset in unemployment, as well as some of the local aerospace companies which have, Crawford said, "been moving forward with government contracts and so needing to ramp-up their employment levels."

A local company called Pacific Lock recently hired staff, and continues to hire staff, after winning a large government order to supply locks to the military through a contract with Lockheed Martin, Crawford said. The company worked with the WorkSource Center for recruitment, he said.

County-wide, civilian employment increased by 46,000 to 4,453,000 in April, according to the Employment Department. Not everything is rosy, however. The manufacturing sector posted the largest month-to-month employment change, losing 6,500 jobs.

The federal government drove overall job gains. Leisure, hospitality and construction also registered job gains. This month marks the first time in 10 months that construction employment has shown an increase, the department's information said.

California's unemployment rate showed a two-tenths decrease from 11.2 percent in March down to 11.0 percent in April, while the nation's rate increased to 8.9 percent in April from 8.5 in March, according to the Employment Development Department.

The decrease in California's rate would be the first since April 2008, according to Mark Schniepp, executive director of the Santa Barbara-based California Economic Forecast, an economic consulting firm.

Schniepp said the decline across the regional and state numbers doesn't necessarily mean the beginning of the end of the area's economic troubles. Unemployment patterns can move up and down, but the rate's drop is a sign that unemployment isn't accelerating as rapidly as it was, he said.

He also said fewer people may be counting themselves as unemployed because they are discouraged.

"(The lower rate) is a combo of a couple things: discouraged workers and less job decline," he said. "We're still losing jobs, but at a much lower rate. We're seeing that at a state level and certainly here in the region."

"It looks like we may have hit a plateau here," he said. "I'd expect it to go a little higher, but at least the increase is lower."

Some economists are calling for recovery from the recession as early as July and no later than September, he said.

"It doesn't mean we'll see significant growth of employment and all sectors, it will just mean we've hit rock-bottom and there will be more net growth than net decline," he said. "I would say we'll certainly be in recovery by August and September ... look for more convincing signs by the fourth quarter of this year."


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