O.C. Jobless Rate Rises to 6.7% : 8,300 Join Unemployment Roll; Level Is Highest Since '83

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Capping a week of disheartening economic news for Orange County, state labor analysts said Friday that the county's jobless rate rose to 6.7% in August as an estimated 8,300 residents were added to the unemployment roll.

The new rate was up from 6.1% in July and tied with June's 6.7% as the highest monthly jobless rate since the 7.0% reported for August, 1983.

Although based largely on seasonal job losses in education and agriculture, the August tally adds to a growing body of evidence that the recession, at least locally, has not ended.

Earlier this week pollsters at UC Irvine reported that consumer confidence in Orange County had hit a new low, sinking below the national average for the first time.

That was followed by a report Wednesday that the hotel occupancy rate in July was down 6.2% as the county's important tourism industry struggled through the summer and by Thursday's report that home sales for the first eight months of 1992 dropped by 17% from same period last year.

"I have been looking at these (unemployment) numbers to find something bright, and I just could not," said Esmael Adibi, director of the Chapman University Center for Economic Research.

The new jobless report marks the first time since 1982 that the county's August unemployment rate has been higher than July's.

A separate state report Friday shows that employers in Orange County slashed 4,100 full- and part-time jobs from their payrolls last month. Since the recession began in July, 1990, the county has lost 78,600 jobs, 33,900 of them in the past year.

The number of jobs remaining--1.119 million in August--is the lowest since February, 1988, when 1.111 million wage and salary positions were reported, and is down 8% from the peak of 1.221 million jobs in December, 1989.

Chapman economists had predicted as recently as June that employment in Orange County would stabilize and begin improving during the third quarter.

"But now it looks like this decline might continue" into 1993, Adibi said Friday.

Orange County's economy is likely to remain in its coma, he said, until there is a strong recovery nationally--something unlikely to happen until after the presidential election in November.

The 4,100 jobs eliminated by employers in August does not match the jobless-rate report's estimate that 8,300 more county residents were out of work. That is because the jobless-rate report, which showed 92,400 people out of work in August, estimates the number of unemployed Orange County residents, regardless of where they previously worked.

The wage and salary employment tally, by contrast, measures the number of jobs located within the county.

Economists say that, because the wage and salary report uses data from employers, it is the better gauge of the state of the local economy.

Job cuts reported by employers in Orange County in August were concentrated in government, which was down 2,300 positions mainly because of summer layoffs at schools; finance, insurance and real estate, down 400 jobs as home sales continued dropping, and durable-goods manufacturing, mainly aerospace and high technology, which was down 800 jobs.

Retail employment, which has been hit hard by the recession, increased by 200 jobs in August but has fallen by 8,800 since August, 1991, to a total of 193,200 positions.

The flagging construction industry also posted a gain of 200 positions last month but shows a net loss of 5,200 jobs since August, 1991. Construction employment now stands at 51,900, well below the high of 74,400 positions reported in July, 1988, the peak of the last building boom.

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