SANTA CRUZ -- The Santa Cruz County labor force grew to a record 161,800 in June, the largest in 32 years, as new college graduates went job-hunting yet unemployment did not rise.

A whopping 5,700 jobs were added last month, many more than the 10-year average of 3,600, bringing the total to 108,900 full-time and part-time jobs.

The workforce expanded beyond the previous peak of 155,700 reached in June 2001 before the dot-com bubble burst.

Unemployment remained at 7.9 percent, as in May, when 4,600 fewer people were in the workforce, according to figures posted by the state Employment Development Department.

The jobless rate has plunged from 10.3 percent a year ago.

Statewide unemployment was 8.5 percent in June.

Locally, the bulk of the jobs added in June were in agriculture as farm employment expanded from 8,700 to 12,800.

Still, about 4,200 people were jobless in Watsonville, the county's agriculture center, where unemployment is estimated at 17.2 percent.

Trade and leisure sectors ramped up for the tourist season.

Trade added 800 jobs, compared to the 10-year average of 100, and retail accounted for 700.

Leisure added 600, which was in line with the average.

The picture looks even better comparing this year to a year ago.

Every sector but information has grown, with the largest gains in trade, 1,500, again mostly retail; private education and health services, up 1,000; and government, up 1,200, likely a reflection of public schools adding employees thanks to additional state funding.

A breakdown of the hiring in private education and health was not available but in Monterey County, the bulk of the hiring was in health care and social assistance.

The figures show 40,000 people -- 27 percent of those working -- commuting to a job outside Santa Cruz County.

A report on economic vitality presented to county supervisors last month highlighted this phenomenon, describing Santa Cruz County as "jobs poor," with fewer jobs compared to employed residents, resulting in a high level of "out-commuting" to "job rich" areas, a loss of sales tax and restaurant spending and higher greenhouse gas emissions.

The report cited 2011 data showing more than 18,000 people commute outside the county, and observed this leads to congestion and affects quality of life.

A census report tracking inflow and outflow of workers reports a much higher number, 46,800 people driving outside the county to work in 2011 while 32,080 drove into the county to work.

The out-commuters have predominated for more than a decade, with a drop to 38,600 in 2007 bringing it closest to the in-commuters, 33,670 that year. Since then, the census reports, out-commuters have grown but in-commuters have not.

For Santa Cruz County to achieve a balance, such as Monterey County, with one job in the county for every employed resident, at least 12,000 more part-time and full-time jobs would be needed and perhaps as many as 19,000, according to BAE Urban Economics, which did the analysis.

The Simply Hired website lists a variety of jobs open in Santa Cruz, including a temporary bookkeeper, customer sales and service at Wells Fargo, night custodian at Dominican Oaks, and maintenance at McDonald's in Scotts Valley, Capitola and Santa Cruz.

The Dream Inn is seeking an experienced server, Edward Jones wants to hire a financial adviser and Ceiba Prep is looking for high school history teacher.

As for pay, the listings provide no information.

Those offering compensation range from Firestone, $10 to $13 an hour for a sales clerk, to $46,000 for a program director at New Life Community Services addiction treatment center, and $60,000 to $92,400 for director of prospect management and research at UC Santa Cruz.

The state will post July job figures on Aug. 16.

Follow Sentinel reporter Jondi Gumz at Twitter.com/jondigumz

JOBS IN SANTA CRUZ COUNTY

Industry

Jobs June 13

Change from May

Change from a year ago

Trade, transportation, utilities

17,900

Up 800

Up 1,500

Leisure and hospitality

13,000

Up 600

Up 500

Private education, health

14,700

Up 100

Up 1,000

Professional and business

10,500

Up 100

Up 700

Manufacturing

6,100

0

Up 300

Financial activities

3,500

0

Up 300

Mining, logging, construction

3,100

Up 100

Up 100

Other services

3,900

0

Up 100

Information

800

0

0

Government

22,600

Down 100

Up 1,200

Total Nonfarm

96,100

Up 1,600

Up 5,700

Total Farm

12,800

Up 4,100

Up 300

Total

108,900

Up 5,700

Up 6,000

Source: California Employment Development Department

GAINS

  • Jobs in Santa Cruz county industry sectors in June compared to a year ago.
  • Real estate, rental and leasing up 15.4 percent
  • Retail trade up 10.5 percent
  • Food service and drinking places up 5.6 percent
  • Manufacturing, up 5.2 percent