Report: O.C. economy growing, but residents struggle

A recent report on the state of Orange County's communities paints a picture of a growing economy powered by job increases in major industries, but with the region's families struggling to keep up.

The county's annual Community Indicators Report — a joint project of CalOptima, the Children and Families Commission of Orange County and United Way — tracks a variety of factors that contribute to residents' quality of life, from economic trends to education statistics.

Officials said in a statement that wide-ranging studies of community life help them pinpoint how best to serve residents.

Among the report's findings are that home prices shot up during 2013, with a 16% increase in median sales price, from $582,930 in December 2012 to $677,660 in December 2013.

Meanwhile, fewer families can afford homes, with poverty rates rising from 8.8% in 2005 to 12.7% in 2012, according to the report.

For the first time, the news release announced, the report also measured overall financial stability using a new index.

That measurement found that a third of Orange County neighborhoods showed high concentrations of families that are in precarious financial situations.

Fewer than 43% of Orange County households can afford an "entry-level" home, priced at about $570,000, which represents a "steep drop" from 2012, when the percentage was 57%, the report found.

Rents, the report concluded, are also generally too high for the low-wage, full-time employees who make up much of the county's workforce.

Still, the report found that the county is continuing its crawl out of recession.

Eight out of 10 "key industries" for the county added jobs during the year, including a 10% jump in the number of biomedical jobs, to 33,877.

Other industries, such as tourism and construction, saw smaller gains — 4% and 3%, respectively.

And in coming decades, the county is expected to continue to grow economically as its population grows — though that population is aging and living with more chronic disease, the report found.

A lower percentage of Orange County students had an "unhealthy body composition" in 2013 compared with the state average, the study found — 38.6% versus 43.9% statewide.

The county is expected to reach a population of about 3.4 million by 2035, which means a 13% increase from 2010, with an estimated 12% increase in housing and 19% growth in employment over the same period, according to the report.

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