Orange County job growth to pick up this year, forecast says

Orange County job growth this year should clock in at 3.1%, compared to 2.5% last year, report says

The Orange County economy is ramping up to beat the nation and the state in the job growth race this year.

California's third most populous county should add nearly 47,000 jobs in 2015, a 3.1% increase that would be the strongest in 15 years, according to a report released Wednesday by the A. Gary Anderson Center for Economic Research at Chapman University.

That increase in jobs represents an acceleration from a 2.5% growth rate last year and comes from strong expected gains in hospitality, business services, healthcare and construction. This year's job growth rate should hit 2.9% in California and 2% nationwide, the report said.

Several factors are driving growth, said Esmael Adibi, director of the school's Anderson Center.

Low levels of homes for sale will boost housing construction to satisfy demand from buyers, Adibi said. In addition, Obamacare is leading to more insured residents and, in turn, more healthcare jobs, he said.

Meanwhile, an improving national economy should drive growth across a wide swath of Orange County industries, providing opportunities for people with varying skills and education, Adibi said.

“We sell lots of goods and services to the rest of the country,” Adibi said. “If the national economy is better, we are going to get more tourists at Disneyland.”

The report forecasts jobs in the leisure and hospitality sector to increase by 6,389 this year, while the construction industry will add 3,587 jobs. Professional and business services will add 11,773 workers, and the education and healthcare sector will grow by 8,963 jobs.

The report forecasts that the county will add nearly 41,000 jobs in 2016, for a slower growth rate of 2.6%.

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7:05 p.m. Updates with additional details

Originally posted at 10:46 a.m.

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