Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Area job forecast looks strong

June 14, 2005
By RACHEL RASKIN-ZRIHEN, Times-Herald staff writer

Job growth in the Solano and Napa county areas may be slowing slightly, but it's still growing at a good clip, according to the latest Manpower Employment Outlook Survey.

Twenty-seven percent of the local companies interviewed for the Manpower survey plan to hire more employees this summer, and only 7 percent plan payroll cutbacks, said Greg Gardner of Manpower.

Forty-three percent of local respondents planned no staff level changes this summer, Gardner added.

Manpower's most recent survey's results are up from the second quarter, when 17 percent of respondents intended to add staff and none planned to let people go, Gardner said. But compared to last year, he said, employment growth seems to be slowing slightly.

"Employers are more cautious about hiring than they were a year ago, when 33 percent of companies surveyed thought employment increases were likely and 7 percent intended to cut back," Gardner said.

"The results show optimism among local employers and a robust market out there," Gardner said. "We've been getting a good number of permanent job orders, particularly for executive administration and high-end sales jobs."

For the coming quarter, job prospects appear best in construction, non-durable goods manufacturing, wholesale-retail trade and public administration, he said.

The numbers seem to be consistent with those throughout California, Gardner said.

Statewide, a 27 percent net increase in staffing levels is expected, with Northern California's firms expecting a net gain of 30 percent compared to Southern California's expected 25 percent gain, the survey showed.

The sharpest gains statewide are expected in Oakland, where a net gain of 67 percent is forecast. Statewide, the smallest gain is the San Fernando Valley's 1 percent, while Contra Costa County's 12 percent net gain is Northern California's smallest.

These kinds of results began regularly appearing in surveys as early as March, when the Vallejo, Fairfield and Napa region was found by the Business Forecasting Center at University of the Pacific's Eberhardt School of Business to be one of the top metropolitan areas in Northern California.

That three-year forecast suggested strong growth locally in employment and personal income, the college's Dr. Sean Snaith said at the time. The study predicted the creation of more than 3,000 jobs by 2007, with construction jobs growing about 4 percent as people from other parts of the Bay Area migrate here seeking more affordable housing.

Later in March the Employment Development Department (EDD) revealed that Solano County had experienced a significant drop in unemployment over the past year - and now has an unemployment rate below that of the state.

In the past few months, surveys conducted by the Bay Area Council and East Bay Mechanic's Bank produced similar findings.

John Grubb of the Bay Area Council said recently that based in part on what Solano County employers plan to do in the next six months, there seems to be a "real end" to the Bay Area's lack of jobs.

And a study earlier this month by the East Bay-based Mechanics Bank's, found Solano County's employers the most likely in Northern California to hire in the next year.

- E-mail Rachel Raskin-Zrihen at RachelZ@thnewsnet.com or call 553-6824.

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