Joblessness drops in SLO County to 9.8 percent

San Luis Obispo County’s unemployment rate fell to 9.8 percent in February, the first time in three months that it has dropped below the 10 percent mark.

The February figure compares to a 10.3 percent unemployment rate in January and 10.3 percent recorded in the same month a year ago, according to the latest data from the California Employment Development Department. The data are not seasonally adjusted.

In February, there were 122,800 people counted among the employed out of a total civilian labor force of 136,000, the department reported.

Mining, labor and construction added 500 jobs over a year, while trade, transportation and utilities gained 600 jobs, professional and business services grew by 100 jobs and leisure and hospitality gained 400 jobs.

Manufacturing saw a gain of 200 jobs, and education and health services added 100. Government and financial activities lost 500 and 100 jobs respectively.

In February, trade, transportation and utilities group was the only industry category to lose jobs — 100 — from the previous month.

The local community with the highest unemployment rate was Oceano at 18 percent, followed by Nipomo and Paso Robles, with rates at 12.9 percent and 11.6 percent respectively.

The communities of Shandon (4.9 percent), Cayucos (5.7 percent) and Cambria (6.9 percent) had the lowest unemployment rates in February.

The county’s unemployment rate ranked seventh of California’s 58 counties. Marin County had the lowest rate of unemployment at 7.8 percent, and Imperial County had the highest at 26.9 percent.

San Luis Obispo County’s rate was below the 12.3 percent for California, which dropped for the second month in a row, but above the 9.5 percent for the nation during that period.

The county posted an unemployment rate as low as 3.7 percent in February 1999.

Lower rates of unemployment are in the offing for the rest of the year for the state, according to an analysis of the state’s unemployment data by Beacon Economics.

Brad Kemp, director of regional research at Beacon Economics, said the trend of previously discouraged workers returning to the labor force, which pulls the unemployment rate up, is coming to an end.