ANAHEIM — Orange County's unemployment rate of 4.1% last month was the highest since January, 1987, as corporate layoffs and an influx of job-seekers from nearby counties swelled local jobless rolls, the state Employment Development Department reported Friday.
October's jobless rate was an unusually low 3.6%. September's was 3.8%.
The latest figures--showing the county with 57,100 unemployed residents, up from 50,000 in October and 36,800 in November, 1989--bolster economists' predictions that the county is in a mild recession, or soon will be.
The EDD report shows that while the number of jobs in the county actually increased in November, the rate of growth during the past year slowed to a mere 0.4%--the lowest level since the early 1980s.
The total number of county jobs can grow even as unemployment increases, because the two sets of numbers measure different things.
The unemployment rate is based on the number of county residents without work, while the local job tally represents the number of jobs at county businesses, regardless of where the workers live.
The construction industry was the hardest hit last month, as employers trimmed 2,100 jobs from their payrolls in a 3.2% decline from October. Since November, 1989, the EDD said, construction employment in the county has dropped by 10,500 jobs, or 14%, to a total of 64,300.
More bad news came from the retail industry. While the 231,400 retail jobs in November represented a 1.6% gain from 227,700 jobs in October, it was down slightly from 231,700 in November, 1989.
Traditionally, November retail employment rates swell from year to year, because the population of retail employers in the county continues to increase, and they all begin frenzied seasonal hiring the month before Christmas.
So the flat retail employment scene means that retailers were not expecting a banner holiday season--a guess that turned out to be a good one, based on early reports from the retail industry.
Despite the downward trend, the county's job scene remained one of the brightest in the state last month.
Only the heavily residential counties of Marin and San Mateo, both near San Francisco, had lower unemployment rates--3% in Marin and 3.2% in San Mateo.
For the first 11 months of 1990, Orange County's unemployment rate averaged a respectable 3.3%.
Statistically, all of the November increase in the county's jobless rate came from external factors: layoffs of 3,500 local residents who work in other counties and an increase of 3,600 in the number of people without jobs setting up residence here, said EDD labor market analyst Eleanor Jordan.
That doesn't mean there were no job losses within the county. County-based builders and developers eliminated 2,100 construction jobs in November.
But those job losses were offset by gains in the service industries.
As a result, even though employment in other industries remained flat, local businesses added 2,600 positions to their payrolls in November, for a total of 1,227,500 jobs.
That represents a net gain of 5,000 jobs in the county since November, 1989, when the total was 1,222,500, Jordan said.