Monday, August 21, 2006

Job Growth in Solano Beats Labor Pool Gain

Job Growth in Solano Beats Labor Pool Gain
By Kathleen L'Ecluse

FAIRFIELD - The number of jobs in Solano County grew at a faster pace than the number of workers in the past five years, perhaps indicating some success in efforts to bring a better jobs/housing balance to the area, according to statistics released by the state Friday.

Solano County's labor force grew 6.6 percent since 2001, increasing by about 13,000 to reach 210,200 people in 2005, according to the state Employment Development Department.

At the same time, the number of jobs in the county grew by 8 percent, adding 10,000 jobs primarily in trade, transportation and utilities; construction and financial activities, reaching a total of about 130,000.

But the numbers aren't quite as simple as saying Solano County added more jobs than workers here, said Cynthia Solorio, the Napa-Solano-Sonoma labor market consultant for the state. The types of jobs added - and what they pay - can make all the difference.

"You have construction, which has higher pay, and there are some higher-paying jobs in finance," she said, referring to two areas of job growth in Solano County. "But the bulk of the growth came in trade and that's wholesale trade and retail trade, a lot of entry-level jobs."

Not the kind of jobs with salaries which will enable people to buy homes.

Still, Solano County does have some advantages. Its proximity to other Bay Area counties and its lower housing costs - compared to those counties - makes it an attractive place for businesses. And the existing biotech industry here could be on the verge of expanding, bring more higher paying jobs to the area, she said.

And other county's problems may be Solano County's fortune, Solorio added.

"I did notice that leisure and hospitality jobs are gaining in Solano County (this summer) when they've basically stalled in Sonoma County," she said. "Perhaps with the gas prices, people are just taking day trips rather than going and staying in those expensive hotels."

The state also released employment numbers for the month of July, which showed a total increase of 3,200 jobs compared to July 2005, an increase of 2.5 percent. The biggest job gains came in educational and health services, professional and business services, and trade, transportation and utilities. The only drop came in information jobs.

The unemployment rate increased for the second month in a row, growing from 4.5 percent in May to 5.2 percent in July. It's still below the July 2005 rate of 5.8 percent and its on par with the statewide rate.

Unemployment in Fairfield was at 5.6 percent, second to Vallejo, at 6.5 percent unemployment. Suisun City had a jobless rate of 5.3 percent, Vacaville was 3.7 percent, Dixon was 4.1 percent, Rio Vista was 3.7 percent and Benicia was 3.1 percent.

Reach Kathleen L'Ecluse at or 427-6933.

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