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No Letup Seen in Demand for Office Workers : Southland Survey Shows Shortage Is Accelerating

Times Staff Writer

Working 9 to 5 may not be everyone’s idea of a great way to make a living, but in much of Southern California, having clerical skills can just about guarantee a job, a new survey suggests.

One-fourth to one-half of employers in most parts of the Southland expect to be hiring office workers during the first six months of 1989, according to a survey of 1,500 California businesses by Irvine-based Thomas Temporaries.

The projected growth in demand for secretaries, receptionists and clerks comes on top of an existing crunch that has left some employers desperate to hire office workers.

Flyers for Job Fair

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“There is definitely a shortage, and I think most corporations are experiencing that,” said Sally K. Faddis, an assistant vice president at California Federal Savings & Loan in Los Angeles.

California Federal, which has struggled to fill its clerical ranks for more than two years, went so far as to advertise its October secretarial job fair on several area radio stations. Recruiters went home the weekend before the fair with 100 flyers apiece encouraging job hunters to visit the company’s Mid-Wilshire headquarters.

“We put them up in dry cleaners, laundromats--wherever we thought there would be a flow of people,” Faddis said.

The new Thomas Temporaries office hiring survey predicts that job growth from January to June in many parts of the Southland will be the strongest since the firm began doing such studies three years ago.

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The most optimistic hiring picture is for southern Orange County, where 46% of the employers surveyed said they planned to expand their permanent office staffs in the first half of the year. Typists with word processing skills, general clerks and accounting clerks will be most in demand, the survey found.

“Companies in Orange County are just desperate for employable people,” said Kathy Bolte, an area vice president for Thomas Temporaries, a temporary help agency with 31 offices in California.

Too Small a Pool

“We’re not turning out enough people who are skilled in those general clerical areas,” she said. “Also, that southern Orange County market is quite an affluent area. When you’re getting kids out of high school whose allowances are more than $5 an hour, it’s hard to entice them to come to work at a company that’s paying $5 an hour on an entry level.”

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Statewide, 27% of employers plan to enlarge their office staffs, while 8% anticipate some cutbacks and 64% expect staffing to remain unchanged.

Stronger job growth than the statewide average is projected for Los Angeles, Riverside, San Diego and northern Orange County.

Below-average job growth, however, is expected in the San Fernando and San Gabriel valleys, Long Beach, northern San Diego County and Bakersfield.

Hiring expectations in San Bernardino are about the same as the state average.

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The margin of error in the survey, conducted by Marketing Consortium in San Diego, is plus or minus 3.5%.

In Los Angeles, the growing demand for secretaries and other clericals--fueled by an influx of out-of-state and foreign banks, accounting firms and law firms--has run smack into a decline in the number of skilled people looking for clerical jobs, said Jack A. Kyser, chief economist for the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce.

The result: a gradual increase in office workers’ wages.

“We have run through the baby boomers--they are all in the market--and we have a decline in the number of entry-level people,” Kyser said. “That means the people who have developed the skills--the ones who have a good track record--they can go out there and do very well for themselves.”

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