Bolstered by a slight surge in tourist industry hiring, Orange County’s unemployment rate dropped to 5.3% in July from June’s seven-year high of 5.4%, the state Employment Development Department reported Friday.
The latest figures are no surprise, said state labor market analyst Eleanor Jordan, and reinforce local economists’ predictions that the county is in for a slow, plodding recovery from the 1990-91 recession.
The state reported that 73,100 Orange County residents were jobless in July, down from 74,600 in June but a hefty 42% increase from 51,300 unemployed in July, 1990, when the county jobless rate was only 3.6%.
Orange County’s July jobless rate remained the lowest of all urbanized counties in Southern California. The Los Angeles County rate was 8.6%, and the state figure was 7.6%.
A companion report that counts jobs at businesses in Orange County shows that the total number in July dropped 1.7% to 1.21 million from 1.23 million a year earlier.
That rate of decline--the first annual drop in the local job tally since the 1981-82 recession--is higher than the 0.4% dip forecast by Chapman College economists in June. But it represented a slight improvement over the 1.6% annual drop in jobs recorded during the 1982 recession.
Labor analyst Jordan’s tally of nearly two dozen employment categories in Orange County shows that almost all declined in July from June and from a year earlier.
One exception was the hard-hit construction industry, which actually added 200 jobs in July compared to June. It was the second consecutive monthly increase for the industry, which lost nearly 10% of its total jobs in the past 12 months.
But those summertime increases, reflecting a slight jump in building permit activity earlier in the year, are not likely to continue.
A report this week from the Construction Industry Research Board in Burbank shows that the number of residential building permits obtained by developers in Orange County during July dropped 56% to 490 units from 1,123 in June.
Although construction employment dropped to 64,000 jobs in July from 71,100 a year earlier, it was not the major victim of the recession.
Manufacturing firms in the county, according to Jordan’s tally, have trimmed 9,200 jobs in the past year, to 244,500 from 253,700 in July, 1990.
Retail employment, usually a growth sector in the county, was off by 5,100 jobs in July, to 217,900 positions from 223,000 a year earlier.
Unemployment Rate in Orange County
1988 Feb.: 3.1%
1991 July: 5.3%