Tuesday, November 30, 2021     Volume: 22, Issue: 39

Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on October 28th, 2020, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 21, Issue 35 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 21, Issue 35

Unemployment rates stagnate after months of improvement

By Malea Martin

Since joblessness spiked in April, the unemployment rate has seen month-to-month improvements. But September’s numbers indicate that those gains may be stagnating. 

Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Glenn Morris said that unemployment rates could be tied to what reopening tier on the state’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy that a county is in. Santa Barbara County’s currently in the red tier, the second most restrictive. 

“When the county moved into the red from the purple, that allowed restaurants a few more seats and a couple of other businesses to try to open up,” Morris said. “That probably resulted in people being called back to work. We’ve been at that same level now for a while, so there’s not a lot of additional activity yet.”

Santa Barbara County’s September unemployment rate was 7.4 percent, virtually unchanged from August’s 7.6 percent. August’s unemployment rate was the largest improvement since the onset of the pandemic: a nearly 3 percent decrease from July. San Luis Obispo County saw a similarly small improvement at 7.2 percent in September, compared with 7.6 percent in August. August’s unemployment rate was the best improvement the county had seen since April, whereas September’s numbers represented the smallest improvement thus far. 

Alma Janabajab, business services strategist with the Workforce Development Board of Santa Barbara County, said that, according to the state, about 48 percent of previously unemployed people have returned to work.

“Unless there are any major movement in re-openings, the numbers will continue to remain stagnant, especially with the recent spike again in COVID-19 numbers,” Janabajab said.

The bigger picture, Morris added, is that many businesses are timid to return to pre-pandemic staffing levels in a still uncertain economy.

“We’re still seeing a lot of caution on the part of the businesses as they’re waiting to see how the fall economy plays out and whether or not Congress comes up with another economic relief bill,” Morris said. “I think there’s a lot of folks that are holding off on bringing back additional staff until they get a better sense of how this is going to play out in the longer term.”

After confirming Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court Oct. 26, U.S. senators left Capitol Hill for their October recess, removing any chance of passing another coronavirus relief bill before the election.

“Depending on what happens with Congress and them doing another relief bill, I think that we’ll see a kind of slow and steady rebuild over the next year,” Morris said.

He added that while the local retail, restaurant, and hospitality sectors continue to struggle, the agricultural industry is operating more or less business-as-usual. This may be why local unemployment rates are faring better than those statewide.

California’s unemployment rate has remained consistently higher than local rates, and the state is seeing similar stagnancy. After a 13.5 percent unemployment rate in July dropped down to 11.2 percent in August, September saw a more modest improvement at 11 percent.

“Our ag sector in particular, they’re still in the middle of their high employment season, so that holds up some of the numbers,” Morris said. “I think we have a fairly diversified economy, where you may have some regions of the state that are really dependent on one industry of another.”

As the economy inches toward recovery, Janabajab from the Workforce Development Board said her organization is running multiple initiatives to provide assistance to struggling employers and employees. Visit sbcwdb.org/job-seekers-special.wdb for more information. 

Weekly Poll
What are your Thanksgiving plans this year?

Traveling to be with family.
Staying home to feast with local family/friends (gas is too expensive/we’re not out of the pandemic yet).
Putting up my Christmas lights and tree ASAP.
Asking family to come to us this year.

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