Back on Hire Ground : Employment in the Southland Is Rising Once Again


Fred Kayne, president of Fortune Fashions in Commerce, doesn’t have to be told that unemployment is going down in Southern California.

He’s helping to bring that about. As co-owner of the firm that makes souvenir apparel for tourist locations, he has boosted his work force to 500 this year--including 150 skilled workers--from 400 a year ago.

He and his employees are all beneficiaries of the robust growth of the entertainment industry and, more broadly, of the steady recovery in the local economy, which were captured in the encouraging unemployment data released Friday.


“We have been hiring people for the last two years here in Los Angeles as the business has grown and as our capabilities have grown,” said Kayne, whose clients include such big-name studios as Disney and Universal. “I think our business outlook . . . in our tourist accounts is very strong.”

Industries from movie making to satellite building are contributing to Southern California’s employment growth, fueled by entertainment, tourism, international trade and high tech.

Rockwell International Corp.’s Semiconductor Systems division in Newport Beach, for instance, says it will add about 500 manufacturing and engineering jobs this year to keep pace with its blistering growth. Dwight Decker, division president, said he hopes to hire up to 1,000 new engineers by the end of the decade.

The opening of the Irvine Entertainment Center theater complex also helped boost employment in Orange County’s amusement and movie sector.

The worst news is in the banking industry: The combined finance, insurance and real estate sector saw jobs drop 1.1% year over year.

But the drop in the region’s unemployment rate to 7.6% in December from 8.1% a year ago also reflects improvement across a broad range of industries, including such heretofore beleaguered ones as aerospace and construction.


“California is experiencing a growth surge, and the state’s economy may accelerate further during the year ahead,” said David Hensley, regional economist for Salomon Bros. in New York.

Among the hard-hit aerospace companies, there are signs of life as new defense and commercial aircraft contracts come in.

Hughes Electronics Corp. has set a goal of hiring 1,000 new workers this year in Southern California in its telecommunications and space division to help fill a $6-billion backlog in satellite orders, company spokeswoman Marcy Garber said.

“Considering that the industry had been downsizing in recent years, it’s nice to be hiring,” she said.

The new hires come on the heels of 4,400 layoffs in 1994 and ’95 in the aerospace and defense units of the company. Hughes has seen its Southern California employment fall to 28,000 from 30,000 in 1994 and 35,000 in 1993, Garber said.

The improvement in the job market is noticeable at local employment agencies. Kimberly Preston, area manager of AppleOne Employment Services’ Beverly Hills office, said she has seen a definite upsurge in jobs.


“Since I took over the office nine months ago, we’re probably doing . . . at least two-thirds more business in terms of placements,” she said. “That’s not just temporaries; that’s placing people permanently.”

In particular demand are high-end secretaries or personal assistants to wealthy individuals, entertainers and executives.

A.G. Edwards & Sons, a national securities brokerage, opened an office in Orange within the last two months, said Mark Robles, a branch manager in Orange County.

And Robles said his office in Laguna Hills is now in negotiations for a larger space and will be adding workers soon.

“We’re very optimistic about our growth here,” Robles said, noting that low interest rates and the strong stock market have propelled the securities industry.

Mike Danzi, president of the Danzi Capital Group, an investment banker in Newport Beach, agreed. “The market keeps hitting record highs, and you need brokers and investment bankers.


Major movie studios have been expanding rapidly as well. Walt Disney Co. has seen its Glendale-Burbank-based work force grow 25% in four years to about 8,000.

MCA Inc., parent company of Universal Studios, has similarly been hiring, with a local work force now ranging from 7,000 to 10,000, depending on the season.

In the construction industry, 1995 saw employment statewide grow 4.1%, said Ben Bartolotto, research director at the Construction Industry Research Board.

Times staff writer Don Lee in Orange County contributed to this report.


State saw big employment gains last month. A1