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Kern economic growth continues
  May 19, 2006
CONTACT:
Mike Stepanovich, 661/654-2456, mstepanovich@csub.edu,
or Jaclyn Loveless, 661/654-2138, jloveless@csub.edu

Kern County's economy continued to improve in the first quarter of 2006, although some economic indicators softened during the quarter, according to the latest issue of the Kern Economic Journal, published by California State University, Bakersfield.

The county's economy expanded at a 2.4 percent annual rate, adding $90 million of personal income, with personal income per worker increasing $480, said Abbas Grammy, professor of applied economics at CSUB and publisher of the Kern Economic Journal.

On the plus side, county consumer confidence increased 2 percentage points. "This means local households conveyed greater confidence in their financial conditions during the first quarter," Grammy said.

However, the county's jobless rate during the quarter crept up by 1.5 percent to a quarterly figure of 8.8 percent. Bakersfield's rate, while under the county average, crept up 0.7 percent to 6.2 percent. Other county unemployment figures below the county average include Ridgecrest at 5.0 percent, Tehachapi at 5.9 percent, and Taft at 8.6 percent. The traditional pockets of high unemployment continued, with Arvin posting 24.5 percent unemployment, Delano 23.7, McFarland 19.0 and Lamont 16.2.

The Kern County Business Outlook Survey showed employers continued to be optimistic about local economic conditions, though the index declined three points from the previous quarter to 137. "That's still in the optimistic range," Grammy said.

Grammy said he continued to be encouraged by the county's economic strength because the jobless rate remained in single digits. The last time the county's unemployment rate was in double digits was the fourth quarter 2004. "Historically Kern County's unemployment rate has been in double digits, so to have five quarters in a row in single digits indicates a major shift in the county's economic fundamentals," he said.

Historically, the first quarter has had the highest farm jobless rate, Grammy said, adding that he anticipates the next several months should see greater employment in the farm sector as crop harvest gets into high gear.

Indicative of the major shift in county economic fundamentals is the fact that the county added nearly 4,000 jobs in the non-farm sector during the first quarter. "That signals real strength," he said.

The latest issue of the Kern Economic Journal also includes a profile of Patrick Collins, president and CEO of the Kern Economic Development Corp.; a report on "The Future of Kern County's Economy," by Barry Hibbard, vice president of commercial and industrial marketing for Tejon Ranch Co.; and a look at "Knowledge Economy Management Lessons" by CSUB marketing professor E. Vincent Carter.

The Kern Economic Journal is a quarterly publication focusing on local economic trends and developments. The journal provides the community with economic information produced by the CSUB Economics Department. "What we provide is local economic news," Grammy said. "This helps local business people make better decisions. We study local economic trends to determine how the local economy is progressing."

A subscription to the Kern Economic Journal costs $60 per year for the print issue, $80 for the electronic issue, including archives; and $100 per year for both hard copy and online, including access to the archives. For a free initial copy or more information about any of the studies published in the journal, please call (661) 654-2466, or e-mail Grammy at agrammy@csub.edu. You can also visit the journal's website at www.csub.edu/kej.

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