WORKPLACE : County's Jobless Rate Not Bad in Relation to Others Across U.S.

Compiled by Michael Flagg / Times Staff Writer

Unemployment is bad enough in Orange County, but it could be worse.

Consider how the county stacks up to other urban areas in joblessness.

The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, which tracks that sort of thing, says Orange County ranked 158th in February among the 272 urban areas the feds compare each month. (February is the latest month available.)

The county's unemployment rate then was 6.5%. That was up from 5.5% a year earlier but still a lot better than much of the rest of California.

In fact, according to the bureau, five of the six worst unemployment rates were to be found in California: in Modesto, Salinas, Fresno, Stockton and Bakersfield, all in the 17% to 19% range. The other city in the top six was McAllen, Tex., in third place.

Los Angeles ranked 20th at 11.2%.

California, economists say, is taking longer to recover from the recession than much of the rest of the country because the state depends so heavily on home building, which is in a temporary trough, and the defense industry, which is shrinking.

And while we're comparing California to the rest of the nation, what does it cost you to live here if you do have a job? The bureau, it turns out, has statistics for that too.

It cost the average household $36,000 a year to live in the Los Angeles-Orange county area, and that was two years ago. (The survey covers 1990 and 1991, the latest figures available.) The $36,000 goes for, among other things, food, 15%; housing, 36%; clothing, 7%; insurance and pensions, 8.5%; health care, 4%; and last but not least, entertainment, 5%.

Not surprisingly, it cost more to live here than in the rest of the nation, where a household spent $29,000 a year; and the rest of the West, where the total was $33,000.

The government figures are used to calculate part of the Consumer Price Index, the federal government's measure of inflation.

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