County Jobless Rate at 3.3%, Still Below State Average

Times Staff Writer

The unemployment rate in Orange County edged up in September, to 3.3% from 3.2% in August, as the number of new jobs created by local businesses failed to keep up with the number of people seeking work.

The number of jobs in the county grew to 1.27 million in September, up 6% for the year, while the labor force grew 5.7% to 1.32 million. State employment officials said there were 43,800 unemployed people in the county during September, up from 42,100 in August.

Still, the county’s jobless rate remains well below the state and national rates and continues to hover below last year’s 4% average.


But many of the new jobs that have pushed the jobless rate down are in low-paying industries, such as service and retail.

“While employment growth has been rapid, income growth has been unusually low” in the county, said economist James Doti, who studies the area’s economy as dean of the School of Business and Management at Chapman College.

Jobs in retail trade, for example, jumped 6.3% in the last year to 215,000, and jobs in the service industry soared 14.7% to 276,000.

Factory jobs, which are generally higher paying, rose just 2.5% in the year to 248,000, according to figures released Thursday by the state Employment Development Department.

And an important local manufacturing industry--aerospace--is expected by EDD job analysts to lose jobs this year and next.

That will be only part of a continuing slowdown in the county economy next year as the state and national economies also grind down, said EDD labor market analyst Dan Johnson.


Meanwhile, housing costs in the county have soared, Doti said, forcing manufacturers to look outside the county, where housing costs are more congenial to blue-collar budgets and workers are easier to come by.

“Manufacturing is highly competitive, and the real problem in Orange County is that, with housing costs so high, manufacturers are tending to move out of the area,” Doti said.

Just two California counties posted lower unemployment rates in September: San Mateo, with a 3% rate, and Marin, with a 3.2% rate.