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Orange County hiring pace falls to 7-year low

June 16, 2017

Orange County’s job market is dramatically cooling, with the hiring pace in May falling to a post-recession low.

New state job statistics show Orange County employers added 3,800 workers in the past 12 months to 1.586 million — a gain of just 0.2 percent. While this employment growth, taken from a poll of employers, is the 82nd consecutive month of year-over-year job creation, this is also the smallest advance in the streak that dates to August 2010.

Or look at the slowdown this way: job gains in the past 12 months are only modestly bigger than Orange County’s average hiring pace since the recession’s end of 2,700 per month.

Orange County’s unemployment rate, derived from a separate survey of households, dipped to 3.2 percent in May, down from 3.3 percent in April and 3.9 percent a year ago. It’s the lowest for a May since 2006. The statewide comparable jobless rate for May was 4.2 percent; nationally, 4.1 percent.

Inside the drop in Orange County’s jobless rate lies a worrisome trend.

In May, 50,000 were unemployed in Orange County — down 8,200 in a year and the lowest jobless count since December 2000. But the number of employed fell by 11,600 — biggest dip since 2010. The unemployment rate fell primarily because the local workforce — unemployed and employed — slumped by 19,700 in a year, the largest drop since the recession ended.

The survey of employers found noteworthy local job declines in the past year in:

Manufacturing: down 3,400 workers to 152,800 — a loss of 2 percent.

Construction of buildings: down 1,200 workers to 19,400 — a loss of 6 percent.

Professional, scientific and technical services: down 1,200 workers to 127,900 — a loss of 1 percent.

Ambulatory healthcare: down 1,800 workers to 79,800 — a loss of 2 percent.

Full-service restaurants: down 1,400 workers to 67,700 — a loss of 2 percent.

Among the job-gaining niches in the past year:

Construction’s specialty trade contractors: up 5,000 workers to 70,000 — a gain of 8 percent.

Employment services: up 3,400 workers to 62,400 — a gain of 6 percent.

Quick-serve eating places: up 2,900 workers to 66,100 — a gain of 5 percent.

Local government education: up 1,700 workers to 80,900 — a gain of 2 percent.

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