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County Unemployment Rate Remains Unyielding at 6.6% : Economy: The October figure is unchanged from a year ago. Statewide, the jobless rate is a dismal 9.8% as California continues stuck in business doldrums.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Orange County’s unemployment rate remained at 6.6% in October, the same as in September and a year earlier.

The state Employment Development Department said Monday that 92,000 people were out of work last month across the county, about the same as last year. In short, Orange County--like much of the rest of Southern California--remains in the economic doldrums.

Statewide, the unemployment rate in October was 9.8%, also the same as a year earlier. The U.S. rate, on the other hand, dropped to 6.8%. While much of the nation recovers from recession, California has been hit hard by a decline in defense spending and a crash in the real estate market.

In Orange County, 17,600 jobs have disappeared in the last year. The only sectors showing gains have been transportation and public utilities, services, and government.

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The biggest gainer was the services sector, which added 5,600 jobs. Some of those are high-paying positions such as lawyers and consultants, but most are low-wage, such as maids and gardeners.

Meanwhile, jobs in historically more lucrative occupations continued to dwindle. The biggest losers were construction, down 4,200 jobs; and manufacturing, down 9,500--with 6,000 of those jobs in high-tech businesses. Also shedding jobs were retail, down 4,600; and wholesale trade, down 3,200.

Because of those losses, the county’s unemployment rate has been wedged between 6% and 7% for about a year and a half--since June, 1992. For most of the 1980s, the county’s jobless rate ranged from 2% to 3%.

In a separate study released Monday, local businesses say they are a lot less likely than employers elsewhere to hire during the first three months of the new year.

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Manpower Inc. said one in five employers it surveyed in Orange County plans to lay people off early next year. Another one in five will hire, and the rest either expect no change or are not sure.

Across the nation, only 13% plan layoffs, compared to Orange County’s 20%. And two-thirds of the 15,000 employers interviewed nationwide said they will stand pat, compared to only half of Orange County’s businesses.

“As you can see, the figures aren’t very close to the national figures--which are very optimistic,” said Sue Foigelman of Manpower, which supplies employers with temporary workers.

Predictably, local service businesses said they plan to hire during the first quarter.

More surprisingly, some construction firms said they, too, will hire.


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