Sept. 21--Job-hunters in Inland Southern California found an easier path to employment in August, a state report found, but more roadblocks could turn up during the coming months.
The pace of job creation in San Bernardino and Riverside counties was better in August than in any month since May, according to the state Employment Development Department report released Friday, Sept. 20. There were an estimated 1,164,500 Inland residents collecting paychecks last month, 7,800 more than August 2012.
That's a 0.7 percent increase from where the job market stood 12 months ago. In July, the year-to-year progress in the struggle to repair the area's job market showed only 4,100 new jobs, a 0.4 percent increase.
Part of this was from an expected increase in public education jobs. Most school employees are officially furloughed during the summer and brought back when schools reopen, giving August and September job reports a boost.
But there was also a hint of private-sector hiring last month. The construction industry, which had been hemorrhaging jobs in the last few months, added a few in August. However, the sector -- which once put food on the tables of one in every 10 Inland workers -- is still way behind where it was a year ago.
Gains also were made in the distribution, retail and hospitality industries. The latter happened mostly because of the addition of several new resorts in the Coachella Valley.
These developments helped lower the region's unemployment to 10.4 percent, down from 11 percent in July and down from 12.6 percent in August 2012.
Many businesses, however, are concerned about issues that range from questions about global demand for Inland-made products to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, and those issues impact decisions on whether to hire full-time workers.
"From our perspective there are some apprehensions from several businesses and industries, but there are some good things going on," said Michael Vanderpool, president and COO of Riverside-based Security Bank of California.
Vanderpool said developments that include the medical school at UC Riverside bode well for job development in the future. But about two-thirds of all new jobs in the area usually come from businesses with 100 employees or fewer, and Vanderpool said his bank, which specializes in small business loans, could use more volume in that area.
"We are seeing some inquiries and some good growth year-over-year, but I still think there's some uncertainty," he said.
Obamacare is scheduled to take affect on Oct. 1. Friday, Congress passed a bill threatening to shut down the federal government unless the program was defunded.
Matt Thalmayer, president of Arrow Staffing Agency, a Redlands-based temporary employment firm, said that penalties regarding Obamacare do not go into affect until next year. But he added that the law does complicate running a business.
"It's still a lot of headaches," Thalmayer said.
He said that Arrow Staffing, which also has offices in Ontario and Riverside, has been busy placing workers in temporary warehouse and manufacturing jobs. The demand for temp workers tends to rise when companies are not sure how many they will need from month to month.
But there are fewer workers who are hired as temps and eventually added to permanent payrolls, known as "temp-to-hire" workers, Thalmayer said.
Retailers are beginning to seek holiday workers, and the indications are that they believe consumers could be spending less in 2013. Target announced Friday it would hire 70,000 seasonal workers, down from 88,000 in 2012. Earlier in the week, Kohl's said it anticipates hiring about as many store employees as last year, but possibly will need more warehouse workers. Kohl's has a distribution center in San Bernardino.
Jobs in distribution-related industries such as trucking and warehousing are up almost 4 percent in the last year and remain the best blue-collar option in the Inland Empire. Also, there is also some growth in the health care industry. But white-collar work and government employment have declined since August 2012.
Statewide, unemployment rose to 8.9 percent, up from 8.7 percent in July. State data is seasonally adjusted, meaning it factors in expected swings from events such as the end of summer recess. Reports for cities and counties are not seasonally adjusted.
Construction jobs across California were up a robust 5 percent from a year ago, and Chapman University economist Esmael Adibi believes the Inland area will eventually see growth in that area. Orange County has about 22,000 more of these jobs than the Inland area, but he expects developers will want to shift east at some point.
Adibi said that the last four months did represent a jobs slump for the Inland area, but he noted that the number of area residents who did any kind of work, including self-employment and off-the-books chores, was up by 30,000 since last August. So at least there are options for many people.
"Typically there's more self-employment when times are tougher," Adibi said. "People say 'I could just sit home and do nothing, or I could do something.' Then, when the payroll job numbers improve, self-employment drops."
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