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O.C. Jobs Recount Makes Recession Less Depressing : Employment: State's revised methods 'find' 15,000 more on payrolls than old figures, meaning slump hasn't been quite so severe.


ANAHEIM — Though the past three years were California's deepest and longest recession since the Great Depression, state employment officials say that the slump wasn't quite as bad as they had thought earlier.

Using newly revised employment counting methods, the state Employment Development Department said Thursday it has "found" 15,000 jobs in Orange County that it thought had disappeared from local payrolls.

Total employment in Orange County for 1993, according to the report, fell just 0.8% to 1,117,300 jobs from 1,126,000 in 1992--a net loss of 8,700 jobs for the year and 55,100 since the recession began.

Before the recount, the EDD had reported 1992 employment at 1,122,400 jobs and 1993 employment at 1,106,700 jobs--a loss of 15,700 jobs in one year and 65,700 since the start of the recession.

Most of the "new" jobs--which EDD officials say were there all along but just weren't counted in past surveys--are in service industries, particularly in health care, engineering and management and business services such as law, accounting and consulting.

Manufacturing, which was losing jobs even before the recession began, ended 1993 with 205,900 workers in Orange County, down from 243,700 at the start of the recession. But that was 1,200 fewer jobs lost than earlier reports had indicated.

"It's pretty good news," said Eleanor Jordan, state labor market analyst for Orange County. "The recession here wasn't as bad as we thought."

But the new numbers aren't good enough to change economists' predictions that the recovery is going to proceed slowly this year and not pick up much momentum until mid-1995.

"The average Joe still won't see much improvement" this year, said Adrian Sanchez, regional economist for First Interstate Bancorp in Los Angeles.

While the Orange County picture is brighter, Los Angeles County actually has lost more jobs than had been reported earlier. The new tally shows almost 13,000 fewer jobs in 1992 than originally counted, putting Los Angeles' job loss in the recession at 420,000.

The state publishes monthly job tallies, by industry, for each county. Every March, the previous two years' numbers are revised under federal guidelines. And this year, federal Bureau of Labor Statistics officials say, the methodology was improved so that it includes positions that were ignored in previous tallies.

The changes have been significant. Before the 1992 job count for Orange County was revised a year ago, preliminary numbers showed that employers here had slashed about 80,000 jobs from their payrolls in just 30 months. After last March's revision, the figure dropped to 65,000 lost jobs.

"Now they're down to 55,000" jobs cut over a 42-month period, said economist Esmael Adibi, director of the Chapman University Center for Economic Research. "But it doesn't really change what we've been saying--that we hit the bottom of the recession in 1993 and that we will show slight but positive job growth by the last half of 1994."

Adibi, who prepares long-range economic outlook reports for the Orange-based private university, said such predictions may seem to be based on ever-shifting employment numbers.

But the changes are rarely of such magnitude as to require wholesale abandonment of forecasts.

"We said last year that all the signs we were seeing showed that it was going to be a better year than the EDD was reporting," Adibi said. "This new report backs us up."

Jobs Picture Better Than Expected The number of jobs in Orange County is still below the peak reached in 1990, but the final 1993 numbers are higher than earlier estimates. The number of non-military, non-agricultural jobs and annual average unemployment rate in Orange County:

Number of jobs 1983: 876,717 1993: 1,117,325

Unemployment rate 1983: 7.08% 1993: 6.28 Source: California Employment Development Department; Researched by JANICE L. JONES/Los Angeles Times

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