Orange County isn’t just beaches and fun; the OC keeps unemployment well below the CA average (photo: Flickr/vansassa)
Every third Friday of the month, economists, business enthusiasts and many other Californians, wait anxiously at their computers for what they hope is good news.
Today is that day. Drumroll please—the California Employment Economic Department just released the latest job figures–for the month of November the state’s jobless rate fell to 9.8 percent from 10.1 in October. Now that is definitely welcome news.
“California has been slow to recover, compared to the rest of the nation, but the economy is starting to pick up across the state and we’re heading in the right direction to create jobs,” said Dr. Wallace Walrod, chief economic advisor for the Orange County Business Council. “Manufacturing and perhaps seasonal jobs contributed to this month’s decline.”
Because California is so large and so diverse, the unemployment rate in cities and counties differ, sometimes, significantly.
One of the lowest rates can be found in Southern California, often dubbed the “happiest place on earth.” Orange County’s unemployment rate, in November, is 7.0 percent.
Yes, you guessed right. It appears Mickey Mouse’s kingdom is doing magical things for the region. Disneyland is the single largest employer in Orange County, as far as a single site goes.
“It’s got just about 25,000 employees in Orange County and the $1.1 billion dollar four-year expansion that was recently completed, not only helped in terms of Disney employing people but it helped in terms of construction workers that built the expansion,” said Walrod.” Outside of that, tourism spending creates other jobs in the economy, with the hotels and restaurants that are around Disney and other parts of the county as well.”
Tourism is one of the industries that are the bloodline for economic success with clusters not just around the Disney resort but “along the coast like Huntington Beach, Newport Beach and Dana Point.” More than 8,000 jobs were filled, from November of last year to November of this year, just in tourism, the most during that time period.
The high-tech industry is also doing well. The cluster is predominately centered in Irvine with “Blizzard, the biggest computer gaming company in the world. They make the game ‘World of Warcraft.’ The unemployment rate for that sector is below two percent.”
Business and profession services are another big contributor to Orange County’s economy. “We sort of are becoming the hub for that in Southern California, around the airport in Costa Mesa and Irvine,” said Walrod. In a year over year period, more than 6,500 people landed jobs.
And there’s still a pretty large manufacturing base.
“One of the hallmarks of the Orange County economy is how diverse of an economy we are,” said Walrod.” No one particular industry dominates, that’s helpful when we are either going down or starting to recover that helps because if one sector is seeing a downturn, another might be coming up.”
What makes Orange County so attractive?
“Number one, we have a very educated workforce and really good K-12 system, colleges and then universities,” added Walrod. “We’ve made some really smart infrastructure investments, primarily transportation and water related. And we sort of fit right in the center of Southern California. We have quite a few entrepreneurs and we have a good business climate.”
“Orange County will probably get back to where we were before the recession started somewhere around 2014-2015 range, near 3 to 4 percent. Contrast to that, in L.A. County–they did their own estimate–that won’t happen until 2018-2020.Their unemployment rate, right now is, 9.8 percent.”
For those still out of work, Orange County appears to be the land of opportunity.