Job Growth, Housing, Traffic and Why Ventura County is Lagging

by Mark Schniepp
November 2015

How is YOUR local economy?

Comparing how the economy is growing across regions of Southern California, I noticed that there is considerable strength in the coastal areas and in the Inland Empire, although the increase jobs created has moderated over the last couple of months.

Nevertheless, unemployment rates are at full employment in Orange, San Diego, and Santa Barbara Counties, and close to full in Ventura and the Inland Empire Counties.

Northern Los Angeles County has demonstrated considerable improvement this year, mostly in the Santa Clarita Valley. And the Antelope Valley economy has evolved over the last two years with more job growth and rebounding home prices.


Ventura County Star, November 6, 2015, Page 8A

Recently, I gave a presentation at a Camarillo Chamber of Commerce meeting where I reported on the lagging progress of the Ventura County economy.

But the Ventura County economy is lagging other counties in California including Santa Barbara County. Lining up the counties in a comparison of a number of economic indicators such as office vacancy rates, job growth, new housing, new commercial and industrial investment, wage growth, home prices, and apartment vacancy rates, the conditions in Ventura County have not progressed like other areas.

Job Growth and Office Vacancy

Job growth (from September 2014 to September 2015) and the Office vacancy rate (as of September 30, 2015) by County:

County Job Growth (%) Office Vacancy (%)
Orange 2.9 10.2
San Francisco 4.3 5.5
San Diego 3.5 15.1
Los Angeles 2.1 15.1
Santa Clarita Valley 3.7 13.3
Santa Barbara 3.2 6.9
Santa Clara 4.7 9.5
Inland Empire 2.7 15.1
Fresno 3.2 12.5
Ventura 1.0 17.7

So why is Ventura County lagging other counties in the key economic indicators? In part, the answer includes the regulatory environment in the County. We believe there has been a stifling of new development of housing and that has pushed home prices and average rents higher, and vacancy rates for rental housing substantially lower, limiting housing affordability and availability for prospective employers.

Housing and Traffic

High home prices and extraordinarily tight rental vacancy is a clear symptom of demand exceeding supply for housing. It’s true in many areas of California, especially along the coast and in Silicon Valley. The lack of housing has ramped up traffic problems in many areas of California.

Job growth is suffering. Commuting continues to increase. More residents of Ventura County are working in Los Angeles or Santa Barbara Counties, and this is creating more traffic and frustration all along the 101, and particularly in some of the region’s principal corridors:

Ventura to Santa Barbara
• 101 NB: Muscle Shoals to Garden Street, Santa Barbara, 7 to 9 AM

Santa Barbara to Ventura
• 101 SB: Milpas Street to Muscle Shoals, 4 to 6 PM

Santa Barbara
• 101 SB: La Cumbre Road to Downtown exits

Oxnard to Camarillo
• 101 EB: Vineyard Avenue to Carmen Drive

Thousand Oaks
• 101 NB: Westlake Blvd to the 23 freeway
• 101 EB: top of Conejo Grade to the 23 freeway
• 23 NB: 101 North to Olsen Road (PM)
• 23 SB: Olsen Road to 101 North (AM)

Home prices in Ventura County are second to Orange County in highest median value among all Southern California Counties. Rental prices are third highest, in back of Los Angeles and Orange County, but the vacancy rate for apartments is the tightest in the region (tying Santa Barbara).

RERC Vac & Price by Area.xlsThe lack of housing is one of the principal problems affecting Southern Santa Barbara, Ventura, and many parts of Los Angeles and Orange Counties. But what sets Ventura County apart is the relatively high rate of business downsizing and defection, combined with the absence of new business relocation there. It appears that businesses have decidedly chosen other areas to relocate to than Ventura County.

Meanwhile, job growth is humming along in the Bay Area economies, in Orange County, and Los Angeles County, including the Santa Clarita Valley region of Northern LA County. Population growth is ramping up again in the Inland Empire and in the Sacramento Valley region. More new development projects are underway or scheduled to begin in the Bay Area, in Central California, in Orange and San Diego Counties and in the Inland Empire.

We should see more new housing under construction next year and more general growth in the regional economies because of it. However, the lagging status of the Ventura County economy is likely to persist until employment growth increases and more housing projects are started and built. How will this happen? A loosening of the regulatory environment and greater economic development efforts by the cities is a first step toward creating greater vibrancy in Ventura County.


Upcoming Conference


The Entrepreneur Economic Forecast Conference in Ventura County
February 5, 2016
Hyatt Westlake


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The California Economic Forecast is an economic consulting firm that produces commentary and analysis on the U.S. and California economies. The firm specializes in economic forecasts and economic impact studies, and is available to make timely, compelling, informative and entertaining economic presentations to large or small groups.

Is a Stock Market Collapse Imminent?

by Mark Schniepp
October 2015

The October Reputation

The title of this month’s newsletter is most appropriate because Octobers tend to be notorious bear months for the stock market. The “Stock Traders Almanac” has labeled October a jinx because of the frequency of market crashes that have occurred in the month. The worst October ever was in 1987, when the stock market declined more than 23 percent on Monday, the 19th. The DJIA fell 508 points.

Stock_Market.xlsWhen the stock market crash of 1929 occurred, it took investors by surprise on October 24. Just weeks before, the market had reached a new high for the year. Nearly 25 percent of the market’s value was lost in two days.

The Panic of 1907 occurred during the last half of October when runs on banks culminated in a major sell-off on the New York Stock Exchange. By November 7, the DJIA had declined 50 percent from the previous year.

During the first 8 days of October 2008, the DJIA lost 2,380 points or 22 percent of its value. The actual decline in the market started in earnest in September of that year. September has, like October, been another especially weak month for stock market performance.

Investor emotions that turn negative when the calendar changes from summer to fall can influence stock market performance. In the fall months, after summer vacations are over and the sun sets earlier, investors get more gloomy. Consequently, any negative economic or market developments in these months can produce overreactions.

The Significance of a Decline

Consumer spending is vulnerable to swings in the stock market because stock holdings are concentrated among high-income households and these households are responsible for a disproportionate share of consumer spending.

10-2015 Great Stock Market Scare

CNN Money, August 25, 2015

The Dow eroded 11 percent between August 10 and August 25, 2015. The recent market correction was allegedly precipitated by the devaluation of the Chinese Yuan and the plunge in the Shanghai Stock Index in July and August of this year. The low point for the Dow this year occurred on August 25. It has since gained over 1,000 points and is near 16,800.

Consequently, we watch the various stock and bond markets carefully as a precursor to spending behavior in the U.S. In the event of a sharp and unexpected downturn in the market, consumer spending during the fourth quarter would likely be impacted which would slow down the growth of production, employment, income, and GDP.

Are Consumers Showing any Signs of Pull-Back?

US Monthly Indicators-D.xlsCore retail sales growth is positive though it has been lackluster during the summer months, likely influenced by concerns about increased market volatility. However, automobile and light truck sales soared during August and September.

Existing home sales have been running strong all year and August new home sales are at their high point for the current business cycle. Mortgage rates remain at very low levels which are expected to persist for the remainder of the year.

Furthermore, e-commerce sales have strengthened this year and continue to outpace in-store retail sales by large margins.


Is Another Market Correction Imminent?

If you monitor this topic on the internet, there is no shortage of content that suggests, warns, or flatly states that the bear market has started and a decline, collapse or crash is imminent.

US Quarterly IndicatorsHowever, the relatively positive collection of economic indicators would imply that another correction is not necessarily imminent. There is little evidence to suggest that consumer spending behavior is being impacted by the correction to date. So I guess they don’t think so either. Corporate profit readings would suggest that the market could, fundamentally, still go higher.

The October 2015 correction probably came early this year in August and lingered into September. From its high in May of this year, the market declined a total of 14 percent. Today, it’s currently off by 10 percent. Certainly any unexpected jolt to the economy or geopolitical setting could set off another bearish reaction. Consequently, we are not ready to forecast the stock market direction for the rest of the year. But there is no imminent decline foreseen in the market from my reading of the taro cards. And I don’t care if it’s October.


Upcoming Autumn Conference

Santa Barbara Technology and Industry Association
Economic Summit

November 5, 2015
Radisson Hotel, Santa Maria
8:00 am – 10:00 am

Register for the Event

The California Economic Forecast is an economic consulting firm that produces commentary and analysis on the U.S. and California economies. The firm specializes in economic forecasts and economic impact studies, and is available to make timely, compelling, informative and entertaining economic presentations to large or small groups.

A Full Employment Economy

By Mark Schniepp
September 2015

Approaching Full Employment

Less than two years ago the Congressional Budget Office predicted a sluggish labor market improvement in the U.S. economy with the unemployment rate making no improvement throughout calendar year 2014, forecasting an unemployment rate of 6.7 percent at year’s end.

09-2015 CBO ScanLos Angeles Times online, February 4, 2014

Well, that forecast did not work out too well for the CBO.  The U.S. labor market created 2.6 million jobs in 2014 and the unemployment rate fell to 5.6 percent at year’s end.

National Employment.xlsNow, eight months later, the economy is on pace to create 3.1 million jobs in 2015—the most since 1999—and the unemployment rate has dropped to 5.1 percent.   This rate is either at or is very close to the “full employment” level of unemployment. Modern notions peg the rate at or around 5.0 percent.  We haven’t seen an unemployment rate that low since April of 2008.

In California, the pace of job creation has been stellar, eclipsing previous years in the current economic cycle and pushing the rate of unemployment down to 6.2 percent.  For the state as an entire economic region, we are still a ways off from the full employment rate of unemployment, but the likelihood is for that threshold to be reached by the summer of 2016.

For many counties in the state, full employment has certainly been reached. Here’s the most recent list of the counties with the lowest rates of unemployment:

County Unemployment Rate (%)
San Mateo 3.6
Marin 3.7
San Francisco 3.8
Santa Clara 4.3
Napa 4.4
Sonoma 4.6
Orange 4.7
San Luis Obispo 4.7
Alameda 5.0
Placer 5.2
San Diego 5.4
source: Labor Market Information Division

What is Full Employment?

Typically, it’s when employers experience difficulty filling job vacancies and they have to bid up wages or salaries to keep employees from leaving, or to recruit skilled employees from other firms or right out of college.

California NAICS NSA.xlsNationwide, there still appears to be slack in the labor force because wages are not generally rising yet.  That’s because the “underemployment rate” is still relatively high.  The underemployment rate includes the unemployed plus those people working in part time positions that would prefer to work full time. The rate in August was 10.3 percent of the labor force—a big improvement over the peak value of 17.4 percent in 2009. Using this rate to ascertain reaching full employment, the country will arrive there by next summer, and wage growth is expected to accelerate in 2016.

Here in California, wages are already rising in the largest labor market centers, most notably, the Bay Area.  And the creation of technology jobs is the principal reason why wages are moving upward.

Employment Cost Index.xlsxSince early 2014, wage/salary appreciation rates have jumped, from approximately 2.5 percent in 2012 and 2013 to over 4 percent this year in the Bay Area.  In Southern California, wage inflation moved from 1.5 percent increases per year to over 3.0 percent this year.

More wage increases are coming in California, sooner than later.  Labor shortages are occurring in construction, in K-12 education, in trucking and other transportation, some retail, and for skilled positions in healthcare and technology.

Higher wages will push the general inflation rate higher. Businesses will face higher costs which reduce profit levels and stock valuations.  Consequently, as the expansion matures and full employment is reached, we’ll have new reasons to worry about increased volatility in the stock market, and the timing of the next recession.


Upcoming Autumn Conference

Santa Barbara Technology and Industry Association
Economic Summit

November 5, 2015
Radisson Hotel, Santa Maria
8:00 am – 10:00 am

Register for the Event

The California Economic Forecast is an economic consulting firm that produces commentary and analysis on the U.S. and California economies. The firm specializes in economic forecasts and economic impact studies, and is available to make timely, compelling, informative and entertaining economic presentations to large or small groups.

Full Steam Ahead

By Mark Schniepp
August 2015

The Expansion has Kicked into Higher Gear

The U.S. economy continues to make steady and consistent progress.  Strength is evident across most sectors and markets, especially the labor market where a full employment economy is now less than a year away.

Reviewing this newsletter a year ago ( the August 2014 edition), I wrote:

The evidence to date in 2014 indicates that the economy is in its best condition and growing at its fastest sustained pace since 2007.   Employment is now expanding at a rate that would bring the economy to full employment in two years or less.

• Consumer confidence is at a 7-year high
• The growth of manufacturing remains positive including job creation
• The financial markets appear very healthy as the bull market takes a needed breather this summer
• Treasury bond yields have recently declined and are lower today than a year ago
• Over the last 12 months, inflation is running at a rate of 1.4 percent
• Existing home sales were higher for the third straight month in June and home price appreciation is still running positive, at 4.3 percent

CPI-D.xlsToday, a full year later, not much has changed. Consumer confidence has slipped some, largely because of the “breather” that the stock market is taking again this summer.  Nevertheless, the bull market has not been vanquished. The Nasdaq is 100 points from its all time high. The S&P 500 index is about 20 points from its all time high. Interest rates are sinking again. Oil prices are below $50/barrel again.  Inflation over the last 12 months has been an imperceptible 0.1 percent, and home sales in June jumped to their highest level since before the last recession.

08-2015 Spot Price of GoldSince 2011, gold prices have been on the decline as the U.S. recovery gradually picked up momentum and investors “rebalanced” their portfolio away from gold and into stocks. The rapid downturn in gold prices during July also reflects investor expectations of an interest rate hike by the Fed this year. The Fed is still expected to begin tightening monetary policy in September.

There is no whiff of a slowdown in the economy. If there was, you’d see it in the financial markets.  And although the broader indexes like the S&P and Nasdaq have generally moved laterally since May, volatility has been remarkably absent from the market.  International events like a possible Greek exit from the euro zone or a bear market in Chinese stocks are just not big or bad enough to impact the U.S. economy.

08-2015 Scan-2

Source: Ventura County Star, September 12, 2014, front page

Nearly a year ago at the Ventura County Economic Forecast Conference, the news was decidly upbeat. Since then, there have been no real surprises in the economy’s progress or in the forecast for 2015 and the year ahead.  We continue to expect a tightening labor market, higher wages and salaries, a strengthening housing market, more consumer spending, and rising interest rates.

Households are in a Strong Position to Increase Spending

US Quarterly IndicatorsThe creation of jobs is strong and broad-based, and wage growth will accelerate more significantly as the economy approaches full employment. Household debt is about as low as it has ever been, and many homeowners have locked in the exceptionally low interest rates by refinancing their mortgages.

Because stock prices are near record highs, and house prices are rising solidly throughout the nation and especially in California, higher asset values make us feel wealthier and more comfortable to spend. Consumers also have plenty of savings, having stashed away most of what they saved on lower gasoline costs over the last 6 months (except in California where the premium to the average U.S. price has now widened from 37 cents on February 1st to over $1.10 per gallon today: $2.63 versus $3.71).

08-2015 Gas price chart


Upcoming Economic Forecast Conference

2015 Ventura County
September 10, 2015
Westlake Hyatt, 7:30 AM

Have you ever had to obtain financing for your business or to buy commercial real estate or apartments? Are you thinking about it? We are going to present a comprehensive picture of the current commercial lending environment, the demand for hard and soft money, and how that is all changing in the marketplace, this year and next.

Mark Schniepp will also update the outlook for the California and Ventura County economies.

  • Where are we now in the business cycle?
  • Is the housing market going to improve with the threat of higher interest rates?
  • What can you expect over the next year regarding worker recruitment and compensation?

The California Economic Forecast is an economic consulting firm that produces commentary and analysis on the U.S. and California economies. The firm specializes in economic forecasts and economic impact studies, and is available to make timely, compelling, informative and entertaining economic presentations to large or small groups.