Unemployment overall remained virtually unchanged from November to December in Santa Barbara County, but Santa Maria still has the highest rate among the county’s eight cities according to figures released Friday by the Workforce Development Board.

Preliminary figures show the county’s unemployment rate at 4.0% compared to the adjusted 3.9% rate for November, according to the board.

The actual number of unemployed countywide remained the same at 8,600 from November to December, but the percentage changed slightly because the size of the county’s workforce and the number of people employed both fell 1.8%.

December’s unemployment rate is considerably better than what is was in December 2020, when it was 7.3%.

Santa Maria leads the county’s cities with a 7.3% unemployment rate for December 2021, followed by Lompoc at 5.8%, with Buellton recording the lowest rate at 1.4%.

Guadalupe’s rate for December was listed at 2.8%, while Solvang’s rate was reported a little higher at 3.3%.

Rates on the South Coast were reported at 2.2% in Santa Barbara, 2.1% in Goleta and 3.6% in Carpinteria.

Unemployment rate trend 2020-21.jpg

A graph provided by the Workforce Development Board of Santa Barbara County shows the trend in the county's unemployment rates since January 2020. The spike in April 2020 was the result of the economy shutting down in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

While the number of people employed in all the county’s industries combined grew by 9,000 from December 2020 to December 2021, the county lost 5,000 workers from November to December, driven by the loss of 5,600 jobs in the farm sector.

However, a drop in the number of employed farmworkers was not unexpected because of the seasonality of the work.

Other sectors that lost jobs were manufacturing, down by 200; educational and health services, down 100; and government, also down 100.

An encouraging sign came in the number of those employed in the leisure and hospitality sector and the mining, logging and construction sector, both of which are historically affected by seasonal fluctuations but increased by 300 jobs each from November.

Leisure and hospitality showed the most gains year over year, picking up 4,900 jobs from December 2020 to December 2021, followed by the farm sector with 1,000 and the trade, transportation and utilities sector and the professional and business services sector, each of which added 700 jobs from the prior year.

Santa Barbara County’s unemployment rate continues to outperform the state’s, which was reported at 5.0% in December, but remains higher than the nationwide rate of 3.7%.

Figures released by the board are based on numbers reported by California Labor Market Information Division’s monthly report on unemployment and industry sector job growth and decline.

The Workforce Development Board is a public-private partnership that helps workers find jobs and businesses find employees; provides skills training to help individuals find and retain jobs; and offers the latest labor market information and regional workforce research for businesses.

Free employment services are provided in the North County at America's Job Center of California, 1410 S. Broadway in Santa Maria. To reach the office by phone, call 805-614-1550.

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