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O.C. unemployment drops below 7 percent

Several sectors cut jobs over the month, but self-employment makes a comeback

by Caitlin AdamsPublished: January 18, 2013 02:45 PM

Last month, the local unemployment rate fell below 7 percent for the first time since December of 2008. Even so, several areas reported job cuts. Still, job gains over the year show a rise of 13,500 total jobs in Orange County. Total job cuts for all industries during the month amount to 3,400.

Dr. Wallace Walrod, chief economic advisor to the Orange County Business Council, said the reported drop in jobs was a little bit surprising to him, but explained that self-employment jobs are not factored into the official number from the Employment Development Department. “Civilian employment was actually up 62,000 jobs, instead of the total nonfarm number reported,” he said.

Several sectors reported losses during the month, with professional and business services leading the pack by shedding 4,800 jobs. The heftiest of those cuts come from the administrative, support and waste services area. Government also cut back in December, losing 1,200 jobs mainly in state and local government.

Job gains during the month were much less robust, with education and health services adding 2,000 jobs, mainly from new hospital hiring. Trade, transportation and utilities added 1,000 jobs to general merchandise retail and wholesale durable goods, among other areas.

Over the past twelve months, Orange County has added a total of 13,500 jobs, with gains in several areas. Financial activities added 7,500 jobs, followed by the leisure and hospitality sector with 6,600 jobs. Education and health services added 5,500 positions, and the construction sector was up 3,200 jobs.

Losses over the year were pretty measured, with manufacturing dropping 1,400 jobs and business services shedding 1,200 jobs. Government was the winner, with 7,100 jobs cut over the year.

“Government continues to lose jobs primarily due to state and local budgets, but that may turn around in 2013 because of the election,” Dr. Walrod said. “The great news is financial services is up significantly over the month and up over the year and that’s a really good sign of the improving economy.”

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