The first half of 1988 promises to hold good news for trained office workers, particularly operators of word processing equipment, according to a recent survey by a major clerical employment agency.
The annual study by Irvine-based Thomas Temporaries shows that 28% of the businesses in Orange County plan to increase the size of their permanent office staffs during the first six months of the year, compared with 26% statewide. And only 6.5% of the 201 county-based businesses surveyed plan to reduce office staffs, either through layoffs or attrition, compared with 8% statewide.
Most of the hiring in Orange County will be done by companies the south county--generally defined as the area south and east of the Costa Mesa Freeway.
But that fast-growing area also is a volatile one and will account for most of the layoffs and other staff reductions predicted for Orange County office workers in 1988, the study shows.
Findings Are Tempered
The Thomas survey of 1,523 firms statewide was conducted shortly after the stock market crash of Oct. 19. Its findings, then, are tempered by executives' assessments of the impact that event and the ensuing financial turmoil will have on their businesses in 1988.
The study's figures are consistent with predictions for regional economic growth made by a number of economists in recent months.
Additionally, said Dan Johnson, Orange County labor market analyst for the state Employment Development Department, there is a "severe shortage" of qualified skilled office workers in the county. "So even if the overall economy does slow down, there will still be a healthy market for people in these occupations--unless we get into a severe recession," he said.
Bonnie Nash, president of Thomas Temporaries, said the company's survey queried executives from a wide variety of businesses, from traditional manufacturing to financial and business services.
But the study does not break down projected hiring trends by industry and Nash was unable to provide any insights into just where the jobs are lurking.
Most of Job Growth
The 1988 economic forecast prepared last month by the Chapman College Center for Economic Research, however, said that most of the county's job growth is expected in the service and wholesale and retail trade sectors and in finance, insurance and real estate--all heavy users of office and clerical help. Chapman predicted a 3.6% increase in wage and salary employment in the county for the coming year, a net gain of 27,500 jobs but the lowest growth rate in a decade.
According to the Thomas survey, the most sought-after clerical employees in Orange County will be word processor operators, wanted by 29.5% of the businesses questioned, followed by general clerks, 21.5%, general typists, 11%, and receptionists with either switchboard or typing skills, each wanted by 10% of the survey respondents.
The findings for the county as a whole are roughly the same as in 1987, although there were sharp differences in regional hiring plans.
The survey shows that 38% of the businesses in south Orange County plan to increase office staffs during the first half of the year--the highest level of the 15 areas surveyed throughout the state. The figure is up sharply from the 24% reported a year ago. Nash said the sharp increase is primarily due to the large number of small, new companies in the southern area of the county.
In projected 1988 new hiring, San Bernardino County was second with 35% of the respondents planning to increase their office staffs, followed by Sacramento, 31%; Long Beach, 29%, and the Los Angeles, San Diego and Oakland metropolitan areas, all at 26%.
North Orange County respondents reported the lowest level of anticipated new hiring, with 18% saying they planned to increase office staffs during the next six months. That is down significantly from 28% last year and, Nash said, reflects the fact that most of the north county employers are large and fairly stable firms.
Businesses in the San Fernando and San Gabriel valleys tied for next-to-last place in projected 1988 new hiring at 19% each.
OUTLOOK FOR OFFICE HIRING
Results of a survey of selected companies' hiring plans for permanent office employees in the first half of 1988.
NORTH ORANGE COUNTY
SOUTH ORANGE COUNTY