Employment statistics

Experts say growth rate not helping
Mediha Fejzagic DiMartino, Staff Writer
Created: 04/20/2011 08:30:52 PM PDT

Jobs are returning, but sporadically, a recent study suggested.

Sluggish employment gains have been recorded since last year for most local cities, including Upland, Rancho Cucamonga, Chino, Chino Hills and western parts of San Bernardino and Fontana.

But it’s their less than 2 percent pace of growth that has researchers rattled, according to the University of Redlands report.

“I’m quite worried. The Inland Empire has not stabilized yet,” said Johannes Moenius, an assistant professor at the university’s Institute for Spatial Economic Analysis. “One to 2 percent gain is nothing, it does not help us at all.

“We need growth of more than 3 percent to see substantial alleviation of burden on people.”

Upland resident Matt Jakositz has been out of a job for more than a year. He’s filled out hundreds of job applications, but to no avail.

“Most jobs in Upland are in retail or restaurant business,” Jakositz said Wednesday while waiting to be admitted into a job fair at the Goldy S. Lewis Community Center in Rancho Cucamonga. “That’s great for people coming out of high school, but there is no corporate job growth. It’s really frustrating.”

But for some cities, any improvement would be better than the bleak reality they are facing.

Pomona, Ontario, Rialto and Colton continue to shed jobs – their employment numbers dipped about two percent since last year.

“The study looked at only the private job sector,” Moenius said. “If government job losses were counted, it would have been worse.”

Ontario resident and father-to-be Walter Molina said he was praying not to get laid off but ended up losing his job last month. Job searches in his and neighboring cities have turned up nothing so far.

“I keep filling out online applications but I get no response. I don’t think anyone is checking them,” Molina said. “I heard that there are 30 million people looking for a job right now. I guess I’m just a part of statistics.”

Heather Sauceda of Colton works just one day a week at a retail store in San Bernardino.

“I took it just to have something,” Sauceda said while filling out an application at the job fair. “I’m hoping to find another one here.”

Claremont, La Verne, Loma Linda, Redlands, Jurupa Valley and eastern parts of San Bernardino are doing better, with job gains of up to 4 percent, according to the U of R report.

Sherri Fernandez of Local Loyalty Rewards was also at the job fair on Wednesday. Her Claremont-based online marketing business is looking to hire six people, making it total of nine hires for the year.

The company’s relative success and expansion during tough economic times can be attributed to the nature of the services they provide to other businesses, Fernandez said.

“For businesses to survive, they need to advertise,” she said. “Those who don’t are going out of business.”

The ZIP code level analysis of employment growth in Southern California was derived from the job data published by the state’s Employment Development Department last week, Moenius said.

“Among the eight counties in Southern California, only the areas around West Hollywood and Santa Monica in Los Angeles County have seen a significant job growth over the last year, with some ZIP codes posting gains of more than four percent,” the report stated.

Orange County has shown “stabilized growth” while San Diego County was in a similar predicament to the Inland Empire – patchy growth at best.

Riverside County’s northwest and central cities suffer from “negative or stagnant” employment growth, while the area surrounding Palm Springs has experienced “slight” job growth.

“The explanation for this pattern is straightforward: Some industries have started adding jobs and in the areas where they are located we see job growth,” the report stated.

More than half of jobs now available in the Inland Empire are in warehousing and logistics, said Stacey Lane, senior vice president of Staffmark’s west business unit.

Staffmark, which has five locations in San Bernardino County, is among the top 10 commercial staffing companies in the United States.

“Inland Empire is the mecca of distribution business,” Lane said. “We’ve noticed a 5 to 6 percent increase in job growth and operations since last year.”

To keep the jobs coming, county’s Workforce Investment Board has implemented several hiring incentive programs.

“One of them offers reimbursement of wages for new hires,” said Gene Eisenbeisz, who heads the board’s Business Services unit. “We pay 50 percent of wages for the first two or three months while the employee is being trained.

“For businesses who are sitting on the fence (about expanding), this usually pushes them over and they decide to hire. Since July of 2009, 1,200 people got hired through this program.”

The board is also trying to “keep businesses healthy, so they don’t have to lay off workers,” Eisenbeisz said.

Through a partnership with the California Employers Association, it provided more than 100 businesses with “no-cost human resources consulting” to help them comply with state labor laws.

The board also administers the small business workshop program that has provided about 1,500 companies with no-cost workshops in sales and marketing, cost-cutting, process efficiency and finance to help them strengthen their operations.

While the threat of a weak economy is tough to ignore, some employers are using it in their favor, Jakositz said. For jobs that are still available, seasoned workers are often looked over.

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