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Report: COVID-19 guts Central Coast leisure industry of thousands of jobs

Posted at 7:25 AM, Jul 13, 2020

The unemployment rate in San Luis Obispo County remains high due to COVID-19 and some job sectors are being hit harder than others, but analysts say the jobless numbers may actually be higher.

According to SLO County's May jobs report, the unemployment rate in SLO County was 12.4 percent or 16,000 unemployed residents.

That's a slight improvement from the 14 percent unemployment rate in April, but it may actually be under-reported due to state mandates on reporting that more narrowly impact large businesses.

"Over 90 percent of businesses in SLO County actually have 10 employees or fewer," SLO County Workforce Program Manager Sarah Hayter said.

Only businesses with at least 50 employees are required to report layoffs under California's Worker Adjustment and Training Notification Act, known as WARN.

"We know just based on word of mouth, media, and outreach of a tremendous impact on small business closures from COVID, but at this point, it's still anecdotal and not too quantitative," Hayter said.

According to the latest SLO County labor report, the leisure and hospitality industry has been hit the hardest; it lost 9,500 jobs from May 2019 to May 2020.

Hotels specifically lost 50 percent of jobs over that 1-year period.

Education and health services, manufacturing, and government positions all lost a combined 7,000 jobs in SLO County over that same year comparison.

"Some of the ones I noticed weren't hit as hard were industries that had opportunities for employees to telecommute," SLO County Workforce Specialist Diana Marin said.

Financial and information industry jobs held steady, losing just a small fraction of positions.

But as many people attempt to find work, the County's lack of diverse employment options are highlighted now more than ever.

"It lays both in the high skilled, high education, higher-wage jobs that require specialized training or the very entry-level positions," Marin said.

That's reflected in the compositionof employers currently offering the most job opportunities in SLO County: Dignity Health, Cal Poly, and Taco Bell.

Even as more positions become available, these analysts know more job seekers are about to enter the fray.

"Especially with Diablo Canyon still coming up, we do have to still consider that, it doesn't go away with the pandemic occurring," Hayter said.

The SLO County June jobs report is expected to be released Friday.

Meanwhile, the unemployment rate in Santa Barbara County hit 12.9 percent in May with a loss of 29,700 positions across all industries between May 2019 and May 2020.

Leisure and hospitality experienced the greatest losses in Santa Barbara County, according to the report.

It's important to note that not all the jobs lost over the year's time can be attributed to COVID-19, though analysts say the pandemic is a major factor.