Nearly half of the construction jobs in Ventura County, Calif., before the housing bubble burst have been wiped out, according to a report released today by a local nonprofit think tank.
The study, by the Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy (CAUSE), found 47 percent of local construction work has been erased since March 2006. That's the highest percentage among industry sectors, the next being manufacturing, which lost 11.8 percent of its jobs.
Most of the construction jobs were lost by Hispanics, according to the study, which paints a desolate employment landscape faced by people like Oxnard resident Isidro Rodriguez. He has been looking for work for nearly four years.
"I've tried everything," Rodriguez said, describing the side jobs and minimum-wage work he's sought. Many construction laborers are working out of state, but Rodriguez is not one of them.
"My roots are here, and I can't just get up and leave," he said. "My parents are in their 80s, and I can't leave them alone. I've been offered work in Illinois, I've been offered work in Oregon. Right now, the boom is up in Oregon. A lot of people have left their families to go up."
Fillmore resident and construction laborer Pete Larson is one who's been working in Oregon. He's also worked since 2007 in Michigan, Indiana, Illinois and other parts of California, including Stockton, Sacramento and Long Beach.
"There was nothing in Ventura County," he said.
CAUSE conducted the study to highlight areas it has identified as needing job growth, said its researcher Cameron Yee.
"We see publicly funded projects as a way to do that," he said.
CAUSE advocates for governments to get companies that receive tax dollars to enter into agreements binding them to use local firms and hire local residents.
Santa Paula resident Manny Bouvet considers himself lucky because he's been able to find construction work in-state.
"It's a little bit of luck and experience," he said. "That's all I can attribute it to, but I've been very fortunate to have employment."
Things are beginning to pick up for Bouvet's comrades, he said. Bouvet, who also works as an apprenticeship instructor, said he knows of one big pipefitter that just announced the hiring of 150 apprentices.
"They're calling for men ... and are hiring," he said. "I do have faith."
Home sales in Ventura County were up 18 percent in July, DataQuick reported Tuesday.
Even with growing sales, the Building Industry Association of Southern California remains cautiously optimistic about new construction and the jobs that come with it. It's still going to be a slow process, said Holly Schroeder, executive director of the association's Los Angeles-Ventura Chapter.
"Hiring is happening as needed and slowly," she said. "We need to see more significant uptick in construction before we see a sustained growth."
Ventura County's unemployment rate was 9.2 percent in June. The state will publish new local unemployment data Friday.
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