Even as Orange County reported a healthy influx of new jobs in March, the local unemployment rate remained largely unchanged, according to the newest report by the California Employment Development Department. The local job market gained more than 13,000 jobs in March, with increases distributed fairly evenly across all industries.
But as economic indicators bloom like springtime, more unemployed have been brushing off their interview clothes, updating their resumes, and returning to the fold as active jobseekers. The local unemployment rate consequently felt a slight bump from 8.0 percent in February to 8.1 percent in March. This still compares favorably with the statewide unemployment rate of 11.5 percent and the national unemployment rate of 8.4 percent for the same period.
“The reason the unemployment rate went up is because we have a lot more people actively looking for work; these are good signs the job market recovering,” said Dr. Wallace Walrod, chief economic advisor to the Orange County Business Council.
The local industry to report to largest influx of new jobs was Professional & Business Services. A total of 6,900 new jobs were reported in the sector, with sizable gains seen in administrative and support services and security services.
“This is an area in Orange County that has become a hub for Southern California where we see jobs early on in a job growth cycle,” Walrod said.
Another notable gain was in the Leisure and Hospitality sector, which added 3,100 during the month. Walrod commented that job gains like this, seen in arts, entertainment, recreation (added 1,600 jobs) and accommodation and food services (up 1,500 jobs) is more common during regular vacation seasons, the holidays and summertime, rather than the first quarter of the year.
“This is a good sign of positive economic strength during part of the year that is not typically a strong hiring season,” Walrod said, noting that the additional jobs reflect some return on the strong investments in local tourism infrastructure, the recent upgrades to John Wayne Airport and new flights to Canada and Mexico.
The only industry to report a month-over-month loss of jobs was Manufacturing, dropping 500 jobs in March. That sector had previously gained 2,500 jobs in February, so the loss was minimal.
“This is a good report that shows we’re on a path of strength in the labor market and that with other economic indicators we’ll continue to see good job growth throughout the year,” Walrod said. “2012 seems to be off to a pretty good start; we’re close to 2 percent employment growth, and it’s a good sign that we’ll continue to experience good job growth throughout the year.”
In the overall Orange County job market, total nonfarm employment grew by 26,400 jobs from March 2011 to March 2012, a growth rate of 1.9 percent. Professional & Business Services added 10,500 jobs year-over-year, with administrative and support services reporting the largest gains. Leisure & Hospitality added 7,400 jobs over last year, with almost 60 percent of the new growth in accommodations and food services.
The largest year-over-year decline was reported in government, with the loss of 1,600 jobs. Other areas with declines were construction (1,500 jobs) and financial activities (500 jobs).
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