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EMPLOYMENT
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Orange County adds jobs in April

The local economy is at the lowest unemployment level since January 2009

by Caitlin AdamsPublished: May 21, 2012 10:30 AM

Orange County saw a positive April jobs report, adding a total of 3,300 jobs over the month and 24,800 jobs over the year, according to the latest report from the California Employment Development Department.

The current statistics place Orange County at 7.4 percent unemployment level, below the national rate of 7.7 percent and the state level of 10.5 percent. Dr. Wallace Walrod, chief economic advisor to the Orange County Business Council, said this month’s report is very favorable.

“The headline takeaway is we dropped to 7.4 unemployment, which is the lowest we’ve been since January 2009. This is a big drop since last month,” Walrod said. March’s unemployment rate came in at 8.2 percent.

Year-over-year growth showed most strongly in the professional and business services sector, which added 11,600 jobs, with almost 90 percent of them in administrative and support services. Trade, transportation and utilities also saw considerable growth compared to the same period in 2011, increasing by 7,100 positions, with more than 90 percent of them going to the retail trade area.

“We’re showing good job growth. If you project this out for the rest of the year, we’re looking at close to 40k jobs,” Walrod said. “We have some good sectors showing growth, including health services, professional business services, trade and tourism.”

In terms of annual declines, construction took the largest hit, with a loss of 4,100 jobs overall. The majority of these positions lost –– 82 percent, amounting to 3,400 jobs –– were in specialty trade contractors.

Month-over-month changes were more scattered across industries. Growth showed most favorably in the education and health services sector, with a total increase of 1,500 jobs Breaking down this sector, the healthcare industry surged by 1,700 positions, countered by a loss of 200 education jobs. The trade, transportation and utilities sector also reported an increase, gaining 7,100 jobs, with more than 90 percent of the positions going into retail trade. Professional and business services added 1,200 jobs over the month; the gains were isolated in the administrative and support services sector.

Again, construction represented the largest loss, posting a drop of 1,600 jobs overall. Seventy percent of the positions lost were centralized in building construction, amounting to 1,100 jobs.

“The warning signs in this jobs report are the loss of construction jobs and the loss of people actively looking for work,” Walrod said. “The local economy’s doing really well even without construction; once construction does turn around, you’ll really see the economy start firing on all cylinders”

Despite an overall strong jobs report, Walrod said there were two points to watch out for: the loss in construction jobs and the reduction in the number of employment seekers looking for jobs. The latter trend is a reversal of the previous month’s jobs report.  

“That we’re under the national unemployment level now is a great sign we’re definitely performing very well in terms of creating jobs in Orange County” Walrod said.


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