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Unemployment rate up

Employment resource centers in Santa Clarita see increase in job seekers

Posted: December 26, 2008 10:07 p.m.
Updated: December 27, 2008 4:55 a.m.

As Santa Clarita's unemployment rate edges past 5 percent, officials at two local employment centers are registering more job seekers looking for permanent work in a tightening economy.

"The centers have been extraordinarily busy over the past months," said Michael Sherwood, field office manager for the state Economic Development Department in the northeast San Fernando Valley, which includes the Santa Clarita WorkSource Center.

Santa Clarita's unemployment rate stood at 5.3 percent in November, the most recent figure available.

County-wide, the rate was 8.7 percent.

WorkSource Centers saw a rise in clients all year as workers in the financial and construction industries lost their jobs, Sherwood said Friday.

The numbers continue to increase as clients visit WorkSource Centers to search for jobs online, sign up for services and research unemployment benefits.

"It's gotten even more so since October and September," he said.

And December has been a "very busy month," he said.

"We did see a lot of job seekers," he said.

January will most likely be another busy month, he said.

The holiday season typically creates temporary jobs, but a lot of employers had to cut back leaving fewer new jobs, he said.

Sherwood said as companies continue to eliminate positions, there is no specific type of job seeker.
"It's really affecting nearly everybody at this point," he said.

With so many job seekers actively looking for long-term work, many are now open to part-time and temporary work.

"A lot of job seekers we speak to are very flexible," he said.

Apple One Employment Services in Valencia is one temp agency that's seen a rise in the number of clients.
"It has picked up a little bit," said Christy Underwood, senior account executive.

At the same time, with a flood of job seekers at the door, Apple One has become more "picky" in the types of candidates it accepts, she said.

The types of available jobs also changed.

Before the slow economy, Apple One, which has about 100 local clients, focused on finding people for entry-level, clerical and data-entry positions, she said.

Now it's mostly high-level positions that companies want.

Just like the clients at the WorkSource Centers, Apple One candidates remain flexible and patient in their job search.

"They definitely are having to wait a little bit longer," she said.

Job seekers also lowered their salary requirements and have taken temporary jobs, she said.

"Relatively speaking, we're still doing pretty well," said Jason Crawford, economic development manager for Santa Clarita.

The city of Pasadena, often compared with Santa Clarita, had an unemployment rate of 6.6 percent in November.

The state's figures show Lancaster's rate soared to 12.4 percent.

The hardest-hit industries in Santa Clarita are small retail stores and construction, Crawford said.

Historically, Santa Clarita's unemployment rate is about 3 percent.

"It definitely is noticeable to see that increase up to 5 percent," Crawford said.

Crawford credits Santa Clarita's diverse economy for the relatively low unemployment rate.

"Santa Clarita has been able to offset some of our job losses with job gains," he said.

As the construction industry remains in a slump, the biomedical and technology industries continue to expand, Crawford said. Filming also has been up strongly during the past few months.

But with a sluggish economy, Crawford is unsure about what 2009 will bring.

"There are a thousand different ideas about what we're going to see in 2009," Crawford said. "We're hoping for the best, but we're preparing for the worst."


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