Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Solano County Job Growth Lags Far Behind Last Year's Figures

Local job growth lags far behind last year's figures

By Matthew Bunk

-- Despite monthly employment gains, nearly every industry sector in urban areas of Solano and Napa counties still have far fewer jobs than last year, according to figures released Friday by the state Employment Development Department.

Cities in the two-county region - researchers call it the Vallejo, Fairfield, Napa Metropolitan Statistical Area - gained 400 non-farm jobs in June for a total of 184,200. But it remained 1,400 fewer than the 185,600 jobs in June 2003.

Farm jobs, which gained monthly because the industry gets busier this time of year, also stalled at 8,300 jobs, 500 behind last year's June total of 8,800.

But even though the figures suggested the jobs market was weaker than last year, it continued a steady climb that began early this year. The area added 800 in farming and 400 in other industries for a combined June gain of 1,200 jobs.

Cynthia Solorio, an EDD labor market analyst for Solano and Napa counties, said jobs growth in the region has been "very, very tentative."

"Communities are reacting differently coming back from the recession we had," Solorio said. "It doesn't look like this area has come very far yet . . . but you also have to look at the chunks of jobs that are coming back."

Although jobs are indeed coming back, the rate of job growth has tapered off by 66 percent since the economy added 3,500 jobs in April. The slowdown mimics the national economy, which gained 112,000 jobs in June and discouraged analysts who expected twice that.

But Solorio is encouraged that it's still going in the right direction. She said there are signs that the regional economy will continue to see modest prolonged growth.

As an example, she pointed to the construction industry, which after six months of record expansion leveled off at 500 jobs better than last year. It started with 15,100 jobs in January, and hit 16,200 in June.

"It's not surprising that (the construction industry) is leveling off," Solorio said. "It's still outpacing the last three years, which, of course, is a healthy sign."

The biggest monthly non-farm gainers were the leisure and hospitality sector and a grouping of trade, transportation and utilities industries, which both added 600 jobs. Both remained slightly above last year's marks.

The only other monthly gainer was financial activities, which added 100 jobs.

Manufacturing took a 400-jobs hit and fell to 500 fewer than last year. Educational and health services lost 300 jobs in June and remains 200 below last year. Local governments shed 100 jobs last month.

Reach Matthew Bunk at 425-4646 Ext. 267 or mbunk@dailyrepublic.net.

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