With the help of seasonal hirings in agriculture, public schools and service firms, Orange County's jobless rate dropped to a record low of 3.5% in February, according to statistics released Friday by the state Employment Development Department.
The February figures give Orange County the lowest unemployment rate of any county in Southern California for the 13th consecutive month. The previous record low for the jobless rate was 3.6%, which was posted in November, 1978. The jobless rate inched down to 3.7 % for the third time last December, when retail stores hired more people for the holidays. As expected, the biggest drop in employment for February occurred in retail, which declined to 203,800 last month from 205,700 in January.
Orange County has had the lowest jobless rate in Southern California for a long time, according to Alta Yetter Gale, a labor market analyst with the EDD in Santa Ana. But Gale cautioned that the jobless rate fluctuates because county unemployment figures are not seasonally adjusted.
"The rate is not expected to hold that low. There is a bit of fluctuation from month to month," Gale said.