Wednesday, September 01, 2004

EDD projects that Solano County non-farm employment will climb almost 13 percent - from 118,000 to 134,000 jobs - by 2008.

Article Published: Thursday, August 26, 2004

Area's job growth falls below statewide pace

By RACHEL RASKIN-ZRIHEN, Times-Herald staff writer

Job growth in the Vallejo-Fairfield-Napa region has fallen below that of the state in the past year, according to a recent study.

The Sacramento Regional Research Institute study shows employment has not grown much in recent months locally, but it hasn't lost ground, either.

If Employment Development Department (EDD) predictions are right, however, the reported slow-down is temporary.

Anita Hawkes, Vallejo Chamber of Commerce director of marketing, said she thinks the recent numbers are an anomaly.

"I'm surprised," Hawkes said. "I would think it's temporary. There's a lot of construction going on, and I can't imagine why the numbers are flat right now. I expect that to change. With all the development locally, we expect growth. I have faith in our city."

The Sacramento area also has fallen below that of the state, the study said.

But unlike the Sacramento area, which is likely feeling the effects of government job cuts, Solano County's job base is more diverse and will continue to grow, said Solano Economic Development Corporation President Mike Ammann.

"Our internal growth is still fluid, and I think, overall, the California business climate, because of the uncertainty with the recall (of former Gov. Gray Davis) and (Gov. Arnold) Schwarzenegger's restructuring, hasn't come out of that slump yet," Ammann said. "We'll be fine. Structurally, our economy is very sound."

In September, the unemployment rate in the Vallejo-Fairfield-Napa area was 5.3 percent, better than the rest of the country, according to a California EDD study. Unemployment in Solano County last month was 6.1 percent, while it was 6.5 percent statewide. Statewide in July, unemployment was highest in Imperial County at 26.7 percent and lowest in Marin County, at 3.6 percent, the EDD reports.

Last year's institute report showed jobs in the Vallejo-Fairfield-Napa region rising slightly, 0.9 percent, over the previous year. The institute's most recent study shows the average employment growth rate for the first six months of 2004 in the Vallejo area was just 0.1 percent the same as the Los Angeles-Long Beach area, and just below the Stockton-Lodi area. The Inland Empire's employment rate grew 2 percent and San Diego's grew 1.2 percent, while the Bay Area's declined 1.5 percent.

According to the EDD, though, Solano County non-farm employment will climb almost 13 percent - from 118,000 to 134,000 jobs - by 2008. Most of those jobs will be in service, trade and government, the EDD says. The EDD predicts business services will add 2,300 jobs mostly in help supply and building maintenance services, while health services will add 1,200 jobs in offices and clinics. Other services like social services, residential care, individual and family services and legal services are also expected to grow, in response to the needs of the burgeoning local population, according to the EDD Web site.

The EDD forecasts 4,200 new trade jobs will be created in Solano by 2008, most of them in retail, mostly due to the county's growing population. It predicts more than 2,000 new government jobs, nearly 2,000 construction and mining jobs and more than 1,000 manufacturing jobs will be created countywide by 2008. It also forecasts some 200 new transportation and public utilities jobs and the loss of some 600 jobs in the finance, insurance and real estate industries, according to its Web site.

Ammann said he thinks there will be significant growth in construction and skilled tradesmen jobs, as well.

"Genentech is expanding, Solano Community College is expanding. There will be a lot of construction jobs. Skilled laborers will be busy," Ammann said.

Retail sales and cashier jobs will see the greatest numerical gains, while percentage-wise, computer-related jobs will see the most profound growth in the next few years in the county, EDD reports. Computer software engineering jobs are expected to grow by more than 61 percent, computer support specialist jobs by 59.4 percent and network and computer systems administrator jobs should grow by almost 43 percent in the county by 2008, according to the EDD.

Ryan Sharp, the institute's research director, said Southern California and the Inland Empire (Riverside-San Bernardino) regions experienced the largest job growth during the past year.

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