Local shopping centers are busy. Freeway traffic is heavy. Homes sell briskly despite high prices. And landlords continue to raise rents.
So how could Orange County job growth be so anemic, according to employment statistics released monthly by the state?
Well, we may have an answer: Job growth looks to be more than double what we think it is.
When I put federal employment statistics, released Tuesday, Dec. 5, into my trusty spreadsheet, I found Orange County employment rising at a 2.2 percent annual rate in 2017’s first six months. It’s a sharp contrast to the state’s comparable monthly data that show job growth averaging a post-recession low of a 0.9 percent in the first half.
How can such a variance happen?
The federal data — reported quarterly for most major U.S. counties — are derived from statisticians analyzing unemployment insurance records of 120-million-plus workers nationwide. The monthly state data released by the Employment Development Department in conjunction with U.S. job trackers are based on a survey of 71,000 California employers.
However, the bigger sample does take time to review. The quarterly federal job studies take about five months to produce while the state data is out roughly three weeks after month’s end.
So, when I asked Chapman University economist Jim Doti about this wide gap in job growth figures – in human terms, it’s approximately 20,000 extra jobs – he immediately jumped into forecasting mode. On Wednesday, Dec. 6, Doti’s presenting his semi-annual business outlook to local business leaders.
Doti said he had been wondering why Orange County job growth looked so slow by the math of the state’s monthly tallies. Every other factor surrounding job creation — from overall business growth to upbeat trade, real estate and consumer data to economically supportive low-interest rates – suggested bosses were still in a significant hiring mode.
That hunch was confirmed by my discovery of the new data. As a result, Doti said he’s upped his estimate of 2017 Orange County job growth to 2.4 percent from 0.6 percent and increased his 2018 forecast for local hiring to 2.6 percent from 0.8 percent.
“This is really good news,” Doti says. “Orange County is doing at least as well as California, if not better; and certainly better than the nation.”
Look at it this way: Orange County bosses have been creating jobs at a 2 percent-plus pace for the past five years — roughly 200,000 new jobs in total….