By RACHEL RASKIN-ZRIHEN, Times-Herald staff writer
More residents of the Vallejo-Fairfield-Napa area are employed now than in more than a decade, according to newly released employment figures.
"Right now, the trend shows that in (Solano and Napa) counties, together, the most positive sign is that 276,000 residents are employed, and that's the highest employment recorded in the area in at least 10 years," state Employment Development Department spokeswoman Cynthia Solorio said Monday.
Solorio said part of the explanation for the area's record number of people employed could be its record number of residents.
"When I saw the numbers I wondered if this was a record, so I went back and looked at civilian employment, and there seems to have been steady growth since about 1997," she said.
There were about 207,000 civilian residents in the two counties employed in the summer of 1990, Solorio said. That was down to about 203,000 in 1991, but the totals rose to 207,700 in 1992 and to 210,000 in 1993. There were 209,400 civilians employed in the summer of 1994 in the two counties, but only about 207,000 the following year and just over 206,000 the year after that.
Then, in 1997, when about 213,000 civilians in the area were working, a steady upward trend developed, with numbers rising steadily from 219,500 in 1998, to 229,300 in 1999 and 240,100 in 2000. The trend continued in 2001, when 248,000 were employed; in 2002, when 269,600 were working, and in 2003, when 272,100 civilians were employed.
"The numbers have stayed pretty strong," Solorio said. "Solano County especially, seems to be growing and that's probably one of the reasons. People are finding Solano County is a nice little pocket, here."
The Vallejo-Fairfield-Napa region ranks 18th of California's 65 areas, Solorio said, with a combined unemployment rate of 5.0 percent. That's down from a revised 5.7 percent in July and below the year-ago estimate of 5.4 percent. Separately, Napa County ranks ninth, with a 3.9 percent unemployment rate and Solano County ranks 24th, with 5.3 percent. Both areas numbers are better than the state average of 5.7 percent, and the national unemployment rate of 5.4 percent.
Solorio said that beginning in spring, Napa and Solano counties will cease to be lumped together as a metropolitan statistical area. The change is due to increased population in both counties, she said.
According to the most recent EDD figures, the state experienced a net job loss of .4 percent in August over July, which works out to about 700 jobs lost, and a .2 percent job loss, or about 400 jobs, since last August. The largest number of jobs lost were in the farming industry, which fell by just over 11 percent, or 900 jobs, in August over July, and by about 6.5 percent or 500 jobs, over last year.
Government has been another big loser job-wise in the past year. There have been 200 government jobs lost between July and August, and 500 jobs lost this year over last; a net job loss of 1.4 percent since August, 2003.
Leisure and hospitality jobs took a hit in the short term, losing 100 jobs in August over July, but gaining 300 jobs since last year.
On the other hand, manufacturing saw a net gain of 2.6 percent or 500 jobs over last year, mostly due to an 8.3 percent increase in beverage manufacturing jobs.
Overall, Vallejo Chamber of Commerce head Rick Wells said, the trend seems positive, but far from perfect.
"(The numbers) are a promising sign, though we still have a long way to go before we get the unemployment rate locally to where it shows the economy is where we want it to be," Wells said, adding that, as far as the chamber is concerned, a zero unemployment rate is the ultimate goal.
- E-mail Rachel Raskin-Zrihen at RachelZ@thnewsnet.com or call 553-6824.
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