O.C. Jobless Rate Stays Steady : Unemployment: County continues to outperform its neighbors as numbers climb in L.A. County, statewide.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Orange County's jobless rate remained unchanged in November at 5.2%, further widening the gulf between the county and its neighbors.

Los Angeles County, for example, saw its November jobless rate jump to 9% in November from October's 7.5%. The statewide unemployment rate to climbed to 8.4% from 7.4%.

Most of the increases were logged in agricultural parts of the state, where seasonal layoffs typically take a big toll from November through February. Orange County and several similar regions--including Alameda and Santa Clara counties, appeared to have been spared from rising unemployment by seasonal retail hiring and by continued strength in their wholesale trade and business services segments, analysts said.

Employment gains in Orange County have come pretty much across the board in the past year, according to a payroll employment report issued Friday by state labor market analyst Eleanor Jordan.

The biggest gains, she said, were in wholesale trade, largely connected with exporting, up 4,200; business services, up 2,900; retail trade, up 1,600; transportation, up 1,300, and amusement industries, up 1,100.

The exceptions have been in rubber and plastic goods manufacturing, which dropped by 1,500 jobs; financial services, down 1,200; insurance, down 1,000; real estate services, down 900, and government, down 900 for the 12-month period.

November's retail trade increase was particularly heartening, economists said, because it shows that retailers are expecting more business than they experienced last year, and that, in turn, points to growing consumer confidence that the economic slump of the past five years may be over.

Economists said the big jump in the Los Angeles County jobless rate for November was a statistical anomaly that should not be considered a true picture of employment in the state's biggest labor market.

The state bases the unadjusted jobless rate on a poll of several thousand households taken in one week of the month, so it is quick sketch rather than a full-fledged portrait, Jordan said. "One month does not make a trend," she said.

Jordan prepares a monthly log of payroll employment in Orange County, reported by individual businesses, which is considered a clearer picture of the direction the economy and job market are headed.

For November, Jordan tallied a total of 1,151,600 jobs at county-based businesses, the highest figure since December 1990 and a gain of 10,100 jobs over the past 12 months.

But that may prove to be a substantial understatement of job growth in the county this year, economists say. The state revises the prior year's raw monthly data every March and most economy watchers say they expect the revisions for 1995 to boost job growth totals substantially.

At Chapman University in Orange, economists this year abandoned the state's official job growth estimate for the present year in preparing their 1996 economic forecast for Orange County because they believe it is woefully understated.

The EDD's preliminary estimate is that just 10,000 new jobs will be added to payrolls in the county this year. But "that is based on information they get from calling existing employers, and we know that much of the growth comes from new companies" the state agency doesn't even know about, said James Doti, the private school's president and originator if its annual forecast.

He believes the final figures will show that county employers added at least 14,000 new jobs. Anil Puri, head of the economics department at Cal State Fullerton, said he also believes the state figures are too low this year.

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Jobless Rate Holds

November unemployment in Orange County was unchanged from the previous month, holding at 5.2%. The rate is well below the Los Angeles County and California levels during the same period--9.0% and 8.4%, respectively. The Orange County trend:

Nov. 1995: 5.2%

Source: California Employment Development Department

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