Northrop Corp. will add another 400 employees to its 2,000-person Orange County work force this year to handle the burgeoning amount of defense work at its Anaheim plant, according to company officials.
The new workers are in addition to the 500 employees Northrop has hired within the last 18 months at its bustling Electro-Mechanical Division in Anaheim, a sprawling facility devoted almost exclusively to military projects.
Formal announcement of the latest hiring spree was to be made Saturday by Thomas V. Jones, chairman of the Los Angeles-based aerospace and defense electronics firm, at dedication ceremonies for a new, four-story building at the Anaheim plant.
Northrop's announcement comes at a time of unparalleled employment for Orange County's defense and aerospace companies. Largely the result of the military buildup begun by the Reagan Administration in 1981, aerospace employment in the county jumped to nearly 85,000 workers last year, a 40% increase over levels in the late 1970s.
The surge in aerospace work has been credited with playing a major role in the drop in the county's unemployment rate to 3.5% in December, the lowest level in 16 years.
According to the state Employment Development Department, nearly 9% of the county's 942,000 civilian workers are employed by aerospace companies, with about half working directly on military projects.
Northrop officials said that additional engineers, assemblers and other high-technology workers are needed for five major military contracts that recently have been increased or accelerated.
The projects include a test system for the missiles launched by the Navy's Trident II submarine; sensor systems for the Army's Scout helicopter, the Navy's F-14 airplane and the Army's and Marine Corps' Hawk missile, and a "night vision" system for a series of Navy helicopters.