Employment Up but Hiring in Crisis

Unemployment in Santa Barbara County at 6 Percent for April

Credit: Daniel Dreifuss (file)

Around this time last year, non-farm job losses totaled 31,100 in Santa Barbara County, but since then employment has bounded back by 79 percent. Nonetheless, employers say they are having trouble finding employees.

The rebound in jobs was led by professional, technical, and scientific services, all of which had grown as of April 2021 compared to the year previous. Hotel and educational services industries continued to lag, however. Overall unemployment was at 6.0 percent for Santa Barbara County in April — representing 12,900 people out of work — compared to 8.1 percent in California and 5.7 percent nationwide.

Those statistics came from the latest report by Andriy Moskalyk, who analyzes Santa Barbara County employment numbers for the state agency. In a brief video series he’s begun recording, Moskalyk observed that consistent growth is happening in the fields of computer, paralegal, and network and computer system administration. Hourly wages were ranging in the high twenties to the low forties ($27.28 for paralegals to $41.66 for computer administrators) among those jobs.

Across the board on the South Coast, however, industries from manufacturing to childcare are having difficulty finding employees. South Coast Chamber of Commerce CEO Kristen Miller described it as a widespread crisis: “We’ve heard about this in restaurants, probably because they’re so forward-facing and people notice them, but it’s across all industries.” The chamber’s new job postings portal holds myriad hiring offers, including for a paint finish prepper, a harbor crew coach, and a broadcast engineer. The Chumash resort is offering $250 monthly bonuses for summer positions at its hotel and food services.

The chamber hosts a Labor Shortage Roundtable on June 7 that will include data from Josh Williams at BW Research and schools superintendent Hilda Maldonado. The conversations at the chamber’s focus groups have touched on offering higher wages, signing bonuses, or incentives specific to the job, Miller said. Work that can be done remotely widens the pool of applicants, she noted, although the inability to find employees extends to both in-person positions as well as those offered remotely.

“We can at least look at what’s out there,” Miller said, “and at the roundtable discussion we can talk with each other, give ideas, best practices, discuss challenges, maybe feel better about all this,” she said with an audible sigh. The roundtable takes place at 11 a.m. next Monday; sign up here to join.


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