Continued increases in agricultural and retail hiring helped Orange County’s unemployment rate buck statewide trends, as it dropped one-tenth of a point to 3.7% in April.
The total number of jobs in Orange County topped the 1 million mark in April for the first time ever. More than 53,500 new jobs have been added countywide since April, 1984.
The county unemployment rate, which is not seasonally adjusted, was down more than half a point from the year-ago rate of 4.3%.
State Rate Rises
Meanwhile, the jobless rate in Los Angeles County rose from 6.5% in March to 7.6% in April, while the seasonally adjusted rate for California rose from 6.9% to 7.3%. The national unemployment rate held steady at 7.3%.
“All signs are that winter is over and spring has begun,” said Alta Yetter, labor market analyst for the state Employment Development Department in Santa Ana. She said retail hiring increased for the Easter season, with more than 1,100 new retail positions filled in April. Also, with the improving weather, outdoor attractions such as amusement parks bolstered their work forces by 900 last month.
Agricultural hiring also kicked into high gear in April, with more than 1,200 jobs added, primarily to pick this year’s abundant strawberry crop.
A dark cloud on the horizon, Yetter said, is the continuing weakness in computer and machine tool manufacturing arenas, which saw a combined drop of 600 workers in April.
Another Drop Seen
But Yetter said the county’s unemployment rate should dip once again in May before it rises in June with the influx of college students into the labor force.
College students were recently among the largest number of job applicants at the Irvine Hilton, which is scheduled to open June 14. “We had a lot of applications from UC Irvine students,” said Leeann Lewis, the hotel’s director of human resources. Earlier this month, the 550-room hotel completed its hiring of more than 300 workers, Lewis said.
More than 2,500 applied for the jobs, which range from dishwashers and waiters to maids and maintenance workers. Training of the staff will begin this week, Lewis said.