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O.C. Jobless Rate Goes Up to 6.6% in July : Unemployment: The increase, however, is offset by continued gains in three key sectors, economists say.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Though a summer wave of recent college and high school graduates pushed Orange County’s jobless rate up to 6.6% for July, economists said the increase masked continued strength in three key sectors of the local economy.

Unemployment in the county rose by nearly a full percentage point from 5.8% for June as the Class of ’94 began its job search. But the increase “is what economists like to call an anomaly in the data,” said Anil Puri, head of the economics department at Cal State Fullerton. “The numbers really show continued strength in the economy, particularly in public utilities, transportation and services.”

The tourism sector also showed gains, Puri said.

“It’s really a positive story if you look at the numbers. . . . That’s exactly what one would expect at this point in this type of recovery.”

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Puri said the biggest cause for concern in the latest monthly report from the Employment Development Department in Anaheim was the loss of 100 jobs in the construction sector since June. “In the summer months you expect construction to pick up,” Puri said. “But what we’ve got is essentially no change.”

In past economic rebounds, construction jobs have helped to fuel recovery. “The difference between this recovery and previous recoveries is the huge bulge in (vacant) commercial space,” Puri said. “Also, you do have the report of higher interest rates, which is not good news.”

Non-agricultural wage and salary employment in Orange County totaled 1.1 million in July, down 8% from June’s total of 1.2 million. The government sector led in job losses, ending the month with 9,200 workers.

That decline, however, occurs every year as teachers leave their classrooms during the summer months, said Eleanor Jordan, an EDD labor market analyst. “This is a typical June-to-July report,” she said. “You’ve got teachers leaving the classroom and high school and college graduates entering the job market.”

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Puri said the July figures show that, “as we expected, the worst of the defense cuts are behind us. . . . We’re still losing jobs, but the rate is slowing down. And there are signs that commercial aerospace is again showing signs of stabilizing.”

Jobless Rate Rises

A new group of job-seekers hitting the market helped boost unemployment in Orange County to 6.6% in July. The latest rate, however, was far below the 7.9% in July, 1993.

Source: Employment Development Department: Researched by JANICE L. JONES / Los Angeles Times

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