Orange County Business Journal

County Adds 12,100 Jobs in April, Unemployment Rate Back Under 9%

Chris Casacchia Friday, May 20, 2011

Hiring for the summer tourism season and job gains in professional and financial services drove Orange County's unemployment rate in April to its lowest level in nearly two years.

The county added 12,100 jobs in April from March, pushing down the unemployment rate to 8.6%, down from 9.1% in March and 9.4% a year earlier, according to the state Employment Development Department.

The last time the unemployment rate was that low was in May 2009.

The county's employed labor force was 1.36 million nonfarm workers in April.

Leisure and hospitality drove the gains, adding 6,800 jobs as employers ramped up hiring for the summer tourist season.

Hotels and restaurants accounted for nearly 67% of the gains.

While the tourism industry typically sees a hiring spree every April, last month’s gains were 5% higher than a year earlier, indicating a recovery is under way and consumers are spending more discretionary income.

Professional and business services added 3,700 jobs.

Administrative and support services, which include temporary employment agencies, accounted for 43% of the growth.

The financial sector added 1,000 jobs, led by advances in the finance and insurance sectors.

Educational and health services gained 800 jobs, which were spread evenly between educational services and the healthcare and social assistance sectors.

Manufacturing shed 800 jobs as 87% of the losses were concentrated in the durable goods sector.

The April job gains nearly matched yearly job gains.

Employers here in April added 12,700 jobs from a year earlier, about a 1% gain. That marked the ninth month of consecutive yearly gains.

Leisure and hospitality posted the largest yearly growth, adding 8,800 jobs. Restaurants and hotels accounted for more than 70% of the gains.

Professional and business services added 7,800 jobs.

Administrative and support services accounted for 69% of the gains.

Government reported the largest yearly decline, losing 3,700 jobs. Local government shed 2,400 jobs, more than offsetting the 600 jobs gained in state government.

Federal government lost 1,900 jobs.

This was the second straight month since the recent recession that government led the yearly decline and that could continue in the coming months.

The government sector is often a lagging indicator.

Job losses didn’t show up until the recovery was under way as state and local government shed jobs to combat deep budget shortfalls.