Tech Hiring Surge Helps Lower Valley Unemployment Rate

Source:  The Mercury News

A powerful surge of tech hiring in September kept the valley’s job recovery on track, according to figures released Friday by the state Employment Development Department.

The unemployment rate dropped to a seasonally adjusted 9.8 percent, well below the stratospheric 11 percent of a year ago, according to an analysis of the EDD data.

Though tech hiring was the main story, other sectors showed signs of life, including the troubled construction industry. The recovery means people sidelined by the recession are returning to work.

Job growth in the valley “is beginning to eat into the unemployment rate,” said Stephen Levy of the Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy.

The region’s 3.1 percent year-over-year job growth — adding 26,000 jobs — continues to outpace the state and nation, Levy said.

While valley employers added only a few hundred jobs overall, the professional, scientific and technology sector took off, gaining about 2,000 jobs from August to September.

The valley’s construction employers also were hiring in September, with an additional 1,000 jobs, adding to steady gains since February. The health care industry added 1,200 jobs for its 13th straight month of gains.

Some unemployed professionals are getting multiple offers, according to ProMatch, a Sunnyvale-based state and federally funded job-networking service.

“We’ve had so many people return to work in the past couple months it would almost make your head spin,” said Connie Brock, a ProMatch program manager.

Some of those being hired are in their 40s and 50s, an age group hit hard by the recession.

“We had a five-month waiting list to get in here a year ago. We have no waiting list now,” Brock said. “Many people I’m meeting with daily have multiple offers.”

“Most of the new hiring is in high tech,” said Brad Kemp of Beacon Economics, which provided the seasonally adjusted data. The valley’s tech sector is “rarefied air” compared with the rest of the state and nation, he said.

On Wednesday, computer-maker Dell interviewed job candidates at its new Santa Clara campus as its executives participated in a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

“They want to expand rapidly,” said Richard Cress, a veteran of 24 years with Silicon Valley tech companies. Cress said he had four interviews that day at Dell. “There are things that are happening, but you have to constantly keep chasing it.”

Ronald Ibaraki, a veteran defense worker, said he’s looking for program management jobs but is expanding his search into solar technology. “That’s a growing industry,” he said Thursday.

But with the national and global economy wobbling, continued growth is not a sure thing. Companies that are hiring are also laying off workers, but it’s too soon to say whether that’s the typical tech industry churn or signs of slowing growth.

Job losses were reported in local government and durable goods manufacturing, while financial services, retail trade and leisure and hospitality were largely unchanged.

The number of layoff notices in the northern part of Santa Clara County shot up dramatically in the past quarter, said Kris Stadleman, executive director of NOVA, the workforce investment board for northern Santa Clara County.

“It’s one quarter, and not necessarily a permanent trend, but it’s big enough to make us say, ‘Uh-oh.’ ”

The southern Santa Clara County workforce board, Work2Future, which covers San Jose, is seeing layoffs from small companies that are not required to file official notices, said Jeff Ruster of San Jose’s economic development office. Many people have given up looking for work or are underemployed and aren’t counted in the unemployment rate, he said.

The unadjusted jobless rate dropped from 10 percent to 9.6 percent for Santa Clara County. The rate was 11.6 percent in San Benito County.

San Mateo County’s unadjusted jobless rate was 8 percent, down from 8.3 percent in August.

California’s unemployment rate dropped to 11.9 percent from 12.1 percent in August. The nation’s jobless rate is 9.1 percent.

The number of unemployed in the San Jose metro area was almost unchanged, at nearly 90,000, while the labor force added more than 5,000 people seeking work. That also helped lower the jobless rate.