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HEARD ON THE BEAT / ECONOMY

Welfare Reform Complicates Situation

September 17, 1997|Patrice Apodaca

The optimistic job-growth forecasts might be tempered by this observation: Orange County needs to provide 27,000 jobs for people coming off public assistance in the next few years due to welfare reform, according to the state Senate Office of Research.

Some critics have said such estimates understate the true number because they don't account for new people coming onto the welfare rolls. But the point remains that the county--and all of California--must find a way to move welfare recipients into the workplace, said Jack Kyser, chief economist at the Economic Development Corp. of Los Angeles County.

Orange County is in relatively good shape because of its strong, diverse economy, low unemployment and fast job growth, Kyser said. Still, the welfare issue promises to be thorny, he said.

The tourism industry is thought to be a likely employer of former welfare recipients, but Kyser said that a lack of late-night public transportation could be a problem. Also, he said, Southern California's economy is dominated by small businesses that hire one or two people at a time, and don't have the types of training programs for former welfare recipients that might be available at large corporations.

Another hurdle, he said, is that the economy will probably start to slow next year, putting the brakes on some business expansion plans.

"It's a challenging situation," Kyser said. Business and government leaders need to discuss the issue "in a strategic fashion, which we haven't done," he said.

Patrice Apodaca covers economic issues for The Times. She can be reached at (714) 966-5979 and at patrice.apodaca@latimes.com

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