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County Loses 13,200 Jobs in March; Unemployment 3.6%

Orange County’s unadjusted unemployment rate jumped to 3.6% in March as the coronavirus pandemic helped push losses to 13,200 jobs, according to the state Employment Development Department.

The data “predated many coronavirus-related business and school closures in the second half” of March, the EDD said in a statement.

“We cannot quantify the effects of the pandemic on the job market in March,” the state agency said. “However, it is likely that the unseasonable changes in the industry employment and labor force data can be ascribed to the effects of the illness and efforts to contain the virus.”

California’s March unemployment rate also soared to 5.6% and the U.S.’s was 4.5%. The most recent numbers for the county, state and U.S. aren’t seasonally adjusted.

California’s record job expansion of 120 months ended as employers cut 99,500 nonfarm jobs. The state’s nonfarm payroll jobs loss was the fourth largest on record.

The state decline was driven by leisure and hospitality, which lost 67,200 jobs, particularly in full-service restaurants and bars. OC’s leisure and hospitality sector declined by 3,000 jobs, mostly in accommodation and food services.

The county unemployment in February was a revised 2.8%; in March last year, it was 3%. Between March 2019 and March 2020, total nonfarm employment increased by 3,600 jobs.

When ranked by California’s counties, Orange County had California’s second lowest unemployment rate, trailing only the 3% in Marin County.

OC nonfarm employment in March fell to 1.67 million from 1.68 million in February; eight of its 11 sectors declined.

The biggest local decrease was professional and business services with a loss of 5,500 jobs, for which professional, scientific and technical services led the drop losing 3,200 jobs. Administrative and support services, which includes temporary firms, fell 2,400 jobs.

Construction was off 2,200 jobs and trade, transportation and utilities also fell, by 1,900 jobs.

Three sectors increased: government, up 500 jobs; and financial activities and educational and health services, each up by 200.

Statewide, six of 11 industry sectors lost jobs month-over-month.

Despite the large month-over job loss, California employers still show a year-over-year job gain of 150,400 non-farm payroll jobs for March.

The state’s other big job declines were in “other services,” 15,500, and construction, 11,600.

Government’s large statewide job gain, 5,200, was mostly due to a rise in local government employment. Federal government employment also helped with larger-than-normal increases, boosted by growth in employment for the U.S. Census count.

People receiving unemployment benefits rose by 52,266 to 424,645. About 144,652 new unemployment claims were made in March.

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Peter J. Brennan
Peter J. Brennan
Peter J. Brennan has been a journalist for 40 years. He spent a decade in Latin America covering wars, narcotic traffickers, earthquakes, and business. His resume includes 15 years at Bloomberg News where his headlines and articles sometimes moved the market caps of companies he covered by hundreds of millions of dollars. His articles have been published worldwide, including the New York Times and the Washington Post; he's appeared on CNN, CBC, BBC, and Bloomberg TV. He was awarded a Kiplinger Fellowship at The Ohio State University.

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