Orange County's economy was one of the hottest in the nation near the end of the decade, according to census statistics released Wednesday.
The county ranked second in the nation in creating new jobs in a 12-month period consisting of parts of 1998 and '99, and was one of the top five counties for new businesses. Only the Phoenix area surpassed Orange County in job growth.
The census information also showed hearty job growth in other areas of Southern California, with San Diego and Los Angeles counties also among the top five.
Orange County added 56,900 nongovernment, nonfarm jobs during that period--a 4.7% growth rate--bringing its total to 1.3 million, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's County Business Patterns, an annual report on business activity.
San Diego County added 54,800 employees, a 5.7% gain that brought its total workers to 1 million. Los Angeles County added 54,200 workers, a 1.5% increase, to bring its total jobs to 3.7 million.
Orange County has continued to pile on jobs, and its unemployment rate was a minuscule 2.4% in March, but other California counties created jobs at a faster pace in both 1999 and 2000, said Esmael Adibi, director of the Center for Economic Research at Chapman University in Orange.
And the county's job growth rate slowed in the first quarter, a trend that Adibi predicts will continue throughout 2001, reflecting a slowing national economy.
"Every month so far we have seen a little bit of slippage," he said. "We still continue to generate jobs, but the rate of growth is going to be slower."
Adibi expects a growth rate of about 3.5% this year, which would amount to about 49,000 new jobs.
The census report also revealed that the county added nearly 1,400 new businesses from 1998 to 1999, a 1.8% increase that lifted the total number to 76,500.