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The Times 100 : The Best Performing Companies in California : THE HUMAN FACTOR : Health-Care Services on Top in Job Growth : Medical-related firms expect to boost 1990 hiring. Financial services, retail and computer product sectors will also expand.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Progressive Nursing Services in Los Angeles has grown from a staff of four nurses in 1985 to 200 today, and expects to hire 100 more this year alone.

At the other end of the scale, California’s fifth-largest employer, National Medical Enterprises, has added 3,700 employees in the past two years and plans to hire “across the board” this year--if it can find the workers, that is.

If you’re a nurse, pharmacist, medical technician or other health professional, chances are you will be able to write your own prescription for a job. Health services is one of California’s leading areas of job growth, The Times survey--and other forecasts--of hiring trends indicate.

The demand for health care has mushroomed because of an aging population, new services and advanced technology that is extending the lives of critically ill people who might not have survived in an earlier age, analysts say.

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“We’re all scrambling for resources,” said Norma Resneder, National’s director of human resources. “It’s as competitive as I’ve seen it in a long time.”

About 57% of 14 publicly traded health-service firms surveyed by MZ Group of San Francisco for The Times reported plans to increase hiring this year. That was the highest percentage in three years--contrasted with 23% in 1987 and 30.8% in 1988.

Companies involved in services, financial services, retail and computer products are also expected to produce a job bonanza, experts say.

In the service sector, 63.9% of 36 firms surveyed planned to add staff, a boost from 48.4% the previous year. The survey also showed expansion plans among 56.7% of 30 financial services firms and 54.5% of 22 retailers. Aging baby boomers, who are saving more and thus needing investment vehicles, has helped spur the growth in financial services jobs, experts say.

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In high-tech, the hiring outlook has dimmed. The proportion of computer products firms planning to add staff has dropped to 50.7% from 72.1% the previous year and, among electronics companies, to 48.6% from 62.3%.

Firms involved in energy, basic materials, real estate, telecommunications and utilities reported no new plans to significantly increase their hiring this year.

The general increase in service jobs reflects the maturing of the economy that has occurred during the past 30 years, said David Hensley, director of California forecasting for the Business Forecasting Project at UCLA. Because businesses are continuously making productivity gains in manufacturing, reducing the need for workers, the labor needs are shifting toward service, he said.

Job growth in Southern California is expected to grow twice as fast as the national rate, with expansions in high-technology, entertainment and international trade more than offsetting cuts in the aerospace industry, said Steve Levy, director of the California Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy in Palo Alto.

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“In 1989 and 1990, we’ve gone through a portion of the Defense cutbacks, and those people, in a macro-sense, have been absorbed very well,” Levy said. “The reason we’re able to start so many new small- and medium-sized firms is because of the market, the technology and our proximity to foreign trade.”

In particular, Levy said, California’s link to the Pacific Rim, which he called the world’s fastest-growing trade and investment corridor, would produce jobs ranging from ports and airports to banks and investment firms.

For instance, California aerospace jobs shrunk by 16,239, from 161,734 in 1988 to 145,495 in 1989. All five of the state’s top aerospace employers in The Times survey cut their work forces last year, including a loss of 6,460 California jobs at Lockheed Corp. and 2,360 at Rockwell International.

But employment in financial services grew by 4.6% last year, producing 6,214 new jobs in California, while the services sector grew by 10.8%, with 12,445 new California jobs.

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For the second year in a row, publicly traded computer companies led all industrial sectors in job growth. Those firms produced 29,000 new jobs worldwide, to 278,177 in 1989 from 249,115 in 1988, an increase of 11.7%. But that was lower than the previous year’s rate of 18.9%.

And much of the growth is replacing jobs lost during the industry’s severe recession in the mid-1980s, Hensley said. The net number of computer industry jobs in California grew by only 2.9% from 1985 to 1989, while the number of electronics components jobs actually declined by 2,000, or 1.3%, during that same period, he said.

“High-tech is not producing many new jobs at all,” Hensley said. “I think that sector is better characterized by rapid growth in output and productivity gains, so they don’t need to hire people.”

Quantum Corp., a disk-drive maker in the Bay Area, confirms--and contradicts--that observation. It began manufacturing advanced disk drives in its Milpitas plant in March--but hired no new assemblers, choosing instead to automate with 11 robots. However, the firm’s overall staff grew by nearly 40% last year with the addition of highly skilled workers: 75 engineers, 30 marketing representatives, 25 finance and administration personnel, and 70 skilled manufacturing workers, said Joe Rodgers, Quantum’s executive vice president of finance.

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California’s largest computer-related employers are slowing their hiring, according to The Times survey.

Apple Computer Co. reduced its staff by 1,200 last year, after a cut of 228 jobs in 1988. Although Hewlett-Packard Co. added 1,000 workers last year, spokeswoman Joan Tharp said the firm “severely restricted” its hiring in mid-1989 and expects those hiring controls to remain in place this year. Advanced Micro Devices replaced none of the 1,000 jobs it cut in 1988.

The state Employment Development Department projects that service jobs--especially in health, law and software--should grow the most rapidly between 1985 and 1995. In total jobs, nurses will lead the demand with 67,110 new positions, followed by accountants and auditors at 47,940.

The top five occupations expected to show the fastest rate of growth are paralegals, computer programmers, data processing equipment repairers, lawyers and computer programmer aides, according to an EDD study.

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The Times survey reported a 5.2% reduction in jobs among 25 publicly traded health services firms last year, mainly because of cuts at a few of California’s largest companies.

Many of those jobs weren’t actually lost, however. Rather, they were shifted to other health-care providers who might not have met The Times’ 100 survey criteria of being publicly traded firms with headquarters in California.

For instance, Beverly Enterprises, the nation’s largest nursing home operator based in Pasadena, showed a decline of 12,334 jobs between 1988 and 1989. Spokesman Bill Ihle said, however, that Beverly didn’t lay off workers. It sold several facilities to firms outside the state. Thus, the jobs still exist but aren’t recorded in the survey.

Another study by the UCLA Business Forecasting Project showed that the total number of health-service jobs in California increased by 3.5% in 1989.

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