Study: O.C. cities drive economy

Several Orange County cities help drive economic growth in Southern California, a UC Irvine study shows.

The data, which the university made public Thursday morning, show that the Newport Beach, Newport Coast, Costa Mesa, Irvine, San Joaquin Hills and Laguna Beach areas — defined in the study as the “Irvine cluster” — provided the most white- and blue-collar jobs per person in Southern California.

The cluster ranked second for retail jobs behind Santa Monica, according to the study.

The high number of jobs was one of the contributing factors for why the area drives the economic growth, said John Hipp, a UCI associate professor and the lead researcher on the Southern California Regional Progress Report.

“The center of white-collar, blue-collar and retail jobs in Orange County is unquestionably the Irvine cluster,” the study concluded. “Since 1994, white-collar jobs in this cluster have dramatically increased relative to the region and, in 2009, the Irvine cluster had more than 10 times these jobs relative to the regional average.”

Having a university in the region may propel the area’s economy in creating more employment and a positive spill-over affect, Hipp said, although the research team did not use universities in the area as a factor in compiling its data.

A team of 21 researchers complied a large data set over 18 months, consisting of 14 different sources including the U.S. Census, FBI’s Unified Crime Reports, the U.S. Economic Census and data from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Hipp said.

The county boasts a lower unemployment rate than other areas with a few exceptions, and Irvine can brag that it has the lowest commuting time in the county, according to the study.

Researchers also found no link between immigration and violence, but rather that immigration can create stability.

“Stability comes over time,” Hipp said, cautioning that if people just move into an area, but leave quickly, it doesn’t create stability. “If they move and stay there [it creates stability].”

Like other counties in the region, Orange County has seen a growing immigrant population.

“Traditionally, white Orange County has also experienced enormous Latino and Asian growth,” the study says.

Hipp said his goal in working on the project was to create a complete data set for policymakers to make informed decisions.

Twitter: @lawilliams30