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Businesses are hiring and unemployment rate is dropping, but finding employees still a challenge

Posted at 6:49 PM, Mar 25, 2022

California’s unemployment rate continues to drop.

Businesses on the Central Coast are also seeing a big difference from last year's rates as more people go back to work.

“Last spring and last summer, it was really interesting to walk around downtown and see the sheer numbers of 'now hiring' signs on the windows," said Bettina Swigger CEO of Downtown San Luis Obispo.

Swigger says she is seeing fewer of those signs now.

California’s unemployment rate dropped to 5.4% last month. At the same time last year, it was 8.6%.

According to the state’sEmployment Development Department, SLO County’s unemployment rate was 3.3% in February. In Santa Barbara County, it was 4.3%.

Swigger believes the lower rates can be attributed to the large college workforce coming back to the area.

“The Cal Poly student body takes a lot of the retail and service jobs. This time last year, we were missing a lot of Cal Poly students in our area because they were learning remotely and hadn’t returned to San Luis Obispo County just yet," said Swigger.

But as businesses fill their vacant positions, it’s creating another problem.

“The problem is we are not seeing enough people available to fill jobs that we need," said CEO and President of the SLO Chamber of Commerce Jim Dantona.

Dantona says SLO County has about 280,000 people, making it a very small workforce pool to pull from.

“You start cannibalizing employees from other jobs. You go get that somebody who works at the business from next door, and then now they are looking for someone, so we start stealing from our own base," said Dantona.

According to the EDD, California has added more than 138,000 jobs and has now regained more than 87% of the nonfarm jobs lost during the pandemic.