Orange County's Taxable Sales Growth Tapers Off

Times Staff Writer

Orange County taxable sales grew at the slowest rate in two years during the first quarter of 1985, according to the state Board of Equalization.

Total county taxable sales of $4.6 billion represented a growth rate of 9.0%, the lowest since the first quarter of 1983, when the rate was 0.3%.

"You can't keep compounding 20% growth" like the second quarter of 1984 said Richard West, an analyst for the Board of Equalization, which compiled the figures. He said that consumers may now be overextended from previous borrowing and unable to keep spending at record levels.

Among Orange County cities, Anaheim had the largest amount of taxable sales at $553.5 million, followed by Santa Ana with $459 million in sales and Costa Mesa with $373 million. Unincorporated areas of the county accounted for $321.2 million in taxable sales.

San Diego's Growth Faster

For the second quarter in a row, San Diego County sales grew faster than Orange County, growing 9.9% during the first quarter of 1985.

Statewide, taxable sales increased 8.8% from the first quarter of 1984 to $48 billion, and Los Angeles County sales grew 8.6% to $14.3 billion. First-quarter growth, after adjustment for price increases, was 3.6% statewide and 3.9% for Orange and Los Angeles counties combined, West said.

Despite double-digit increases in automobile and department store sales, statewide taxable sales during the first quarter of 1985 grew at the slowest rate in almost two years. The 8.8% growth rate was the lowest since the 8.4% recorded during the second quarter of 1983.

Record Car Sales

The $5.2 billion worth of sales of new cars represented an increase of 14.4% from the first quarter of 1984. A record 382,830 new cars and trucks were registered during the first quarter of 1985, a 2.9% increase over the previous first-quarter record set in 1979.

Automobile sales are expected to increase even more now that restrictions have been lifted from Japanese imports, West said. "They can sell all they can import," said West of foreign car dealers. "I look to see it continue to increase significantly."

Department stores, while second with sales of $3.5 billion, showed an increase of 16.8% from the same period a year earlier. Gasoline sales in the state grew for the seventh consecutive quarter, increasing 2.4% to $2.9 billion.

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