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Valley economic recovery off to slow start

POSTED February 22, 2013 10:31 p.m.

In his State of the City address, Mayor John Lazar was excited to announce that Turlock has “turned an economic corner,” and will continue to grow and self-sustain itself as new industries and developments take place promoting job growth.

But the rest of Stanislaus County may not be so quick to catch up with Turlock’s success. The Central Valley has been slow to recover economically the last four years compared to the rest of the state. Cuts to Workforce Investment Act funds caused approximately 12,000 lay-offs in California within the last year, leaving employers empty handed and employment seekers to fend for themselves.

There is hope on the horizon for 2013, which is expected to begin with a $2.5 million grant from California’s Employment Development Department to the Stanislaus County Alliance Worknet. EED Director Pam Harris has taken note of the Central Valley’s 14 to 16 percent unemployment rate, and took initiatives to fund job retraining for approximately 460 laid-off workers.

“This grant will instill a ray of hope in the region by giving the local communities the tools necessary to retrain unemployed workers for skilled jobs in booming industries,” Harris said.

Director of Stanislaus County Alliance Worknet Jeff Rowe was appreciative that other sectors of California acknowledged the Central Valley’s struggle, and helped to put a stop to victims of lay-offs. Stanislaus is not the only county to gain resources. Fresno, Kern, and King counties will also receive funds for retraining and services for unemployed workers.

The services include counseling, technical skills training, job development, paid internships, and support services for jobs in high demand within the Central Valley that mainly focus on agriculture, health, water technology, and energy projects.

The EDD funds will come in handy, as an Alliance Worknet survey incorporating nearly every major industry in the Stanislaus County found that nearly 60 percent of managers and business owners mentioned the effects of the tough economy on their profitability and growth, stating that they are less likely to hire new workers in the recent future.

The University of the Pacific Business Forecasting Center's newest report shows that economic growth in the Central Valley will be a slow process and a “sluggish recovery.”

California job growth is expected to increase approximately 2 percent for the next few years, and will increase by 4 percent in 2015, according to the business forecast.

Jeff Michael, director of the Business Forecasting Center, believes that California’s debt surmounts the U.S. overall, but is hopeful that the Bay Area’s economy, which has recovered to pre-recession levels in San Francisco and San Jose, will steadily uphold their economic growth until the rest of California’s economy recovers.

The Central Valley forecast summary for Stockton, Merced, Fresno and Modesto, are expected to hold approximately a 10 to 13.4 percent unemployment rate until 2016, compared to the annual forecast summary for all of California, which is predicted to have an unemployment rate of 6.1 percent and a 2 percent payroll increase by 2017.

The University of the Pacific Forecast Analysis also shows that Proposition 30 will help to stabilize state and local government employment. Out of the 170,000 jobs lost during the recession, nearly 100,000 are expected to be recovered by 2017.

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