No question, job gains continue in the East Bay. The region bounced back in May from a slump in April, according to a report released Friday by the state's Employment Development Department
But for the first time in years, the expansion of the East Bay economy has taken place despite -- not because of -- the housing market.
"The housing downturn is starting to show up much more clearly in the employment numbers in California," said Howard Roth, chief economist with the state finance department. "We are seeing the effects of the slowdown in construction employment and financial jobs."
Those effects have ripped through the East Bay as well. In the past year, 1,800 construction jobs have vanished in the East Bay. The loss of 1,300 jobs in residential construction triggered the rout in building activity.
The Alameda-Contra Costa region lost 800 real estate jobs during the year. An industry called credit intermediation, which largely consists of mortgage agents and loan officers, lost 1,200 jobs during the 12 months that ended in May, an analysis of EDD figures shows.
Fortunately for the region's economy, other areas are doing nicely. Adjusted for seasonal trends, the East Bay added 900 jobs in May.
Robust improvements in professional, scientific and technical services, health care, administrative services, private education, and food and beverage services helped
Yet the pace of job growth in the East Bay lagged that of the Bay Area during the yearlong period:
Some job seekers at the Tri-Valley One-Stop Career Center in Pleasanton reported a mixed outlook about the regional job market.
"I'm finding that wages are lower for the kind of work I did," said Greg Pane, a Livermore resident. "Employers are also asking you to cram in more work."
Pane was employed as a distribution coordinator with a Livermore software company. He has been looking for a steady and suitable job for more than a year. Despite 15 years of experience with the software company, Pane has encountered more than a few potholes in landing a job.
"Jobs that used to pay me $20 an hour now pay $15," Pane said. "What was $15 is now $10 or $11."
Julian Blea, a Sunol resident, voluntarily left a job with a heating and air-conditioning company a few weeks ago. But Blea has experience in product development, marketing and sales, and high-tech engineering. He also is going to school to get an insurance license. So in some ways he seems picky about the job he'll take.
"The opportunities are out there," Blea said.
Blea said the emerging solar energy industry intrigues him. He said he has developed ideas for new solar technologies.
"I have an entrepreneurial spirit," Blea said. "If there's a hurdle, I'll find a way to get around it."
Staffing industry professionals said they believe the job market has maintained its rally. Kerry Kiley, regional operations manager with Adecco, said employment demand in the East Bay has yet to ebb in any significant way.
"It's still as hot as it has been the last year or so," Kiley said. "The East Bay might not be growing as fast as our other offices in the Bay Area, but we continue to see increased requests and demand from employers. The East Bay is still strong."
Perhaps the most encouraging trend is the rebound of the high-tech market. Kiley suspects that's the case because Adecco's strongest Bay Area market is the South Bay.
"I think the tech business is picking up in the Bay Area," Kiley said. "We are providing a lot of positions for technology companies."
George Avalos covers the job market, insurance, petroleum and banks. Reach him at 925-977-8477 or email@example.com.