Despite a dip in the stated unemployment rate for November, employment in Orange County remained static--the first time in 11 years that November's actual employment count failed to increase from the previous month.
Officially, the county's jobless rate dropped to 3.6% in November from 4.3% in October. But that decline of seven-tenths of a percentage point was primarily the result of a statistical adjustment mandated by the state.
In reality, the local civilian job count remained unchanged at 1,004,300, the state Employment Development Department reported.
Two factors were primarily responsible for the disappointing statistic--the lengthy trade disputes between members of the Teamsters and meat cutter union and their employers, and an unexpected November employment drop in the manufacturing sector.
"Manufacturing is still in a bad way," said Alta Yetter Gale, labor market analyst with the department. "Ordinarily there's no decrease in manufacturing employment at this time." Total employment in that sector fell by 300 workers from October, to 231,600.
But the biggest drop was in wholesale trade, which saw a decline of 3,100 jobs, primarily because of the labor strikes. "It wiped out the entire retail gain of 2,600 workers," Gale said.
By itself, however, the retail sector did enjoy a seasonal rise--to 194,300 workers in November compared with 191,700 in October. (Unlike national figures, Orange County unemployment statistics are not adjusted for seasonal variations.)
Target Stores Inc., which has six outlets in Orange County, hired more than 250 part-time workers for the Christmas season, said Bonnie Schultz, the company's regional personnel representative in Irvine.
"We began hiring in October, and many will stay on until the middle of January," she said. Some part-time workers, however, already have been laid off, including those who worked in the store's outdoor Christmas tree lots, Schultz said.
Nearly 40 Hired
I. Magnin Co. Inc. hired nearly 40 seasonal salespeople for its Orange County stores at South Coast Plaza and Fashion Square, said Julie Avins, training director for the retailer's Southern California region. "We expect to place about 50% of them as permanent employees after the Christmas season," she said.
Despite the poor November employment showing, Orange County still fared better than both the state and Los Angeles County, each of which posted 6.6% unemployment rates for November. The Los Angeles County rate dropped by three-tenths of a percentage point between October and November, while the unadjusted statewide rate dropped by six-tenths of a point.
The lowest November unemployment rate in California--3.1%--was reported in Marin County.
With increased seasonal hiring, the state expects the December employment picture to improve considerably, Gale said.