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By Shawn Raymundo
The three South Orange County cities continued to see glimpses of an economic turnaround this past September, as unemployment rates fell again.
The average unemployment rate for San Clemente, Dana Point and San Juan Capistrano collectively was 7.4% in the month of September—below the county-wide rate of 9%, according to the state’s mid-October jobs report. Statewide, the unemployment rate also fell slightly to 11%, down from the 11.2% the month prior.
While the decline in unemployment offers a bit of hope for the state’s economy, it’s still significantly higher than 3.9% reported a year ago, and comes in the midst of a new wave of coronavirus cases as the nation heads into the winter months.
For another consecutive month, the county reported a downward trend in unemployment, improving from 9.5% in August, and a rise in jobs, namely within the government sector, as well as in professional and business services.
In Dana Point, where 1,400 residents were out of work, unemployment was at 7.6%, while San Clemente’s rate was slightly lower with 7.4%, representing 2,200 out-of-work residents. San Juan Capistrano’s unemployment rate was 7.3% for the month as 1,200 residents were unemployed.
The three cities’ combined labor force amounted to 64,900 residents, with San Clemente residents accounting for nearly half of that total. The county’s total labor force was reported at more than 1.57 million for the month of September.
The San Clemente Times had last reported that the unemployment rate in Dana Point was 12% in the month of June. San Clemente’s unemployment rate then was also 12%, and in San Juan, it had an unemployment rate of 11.6%.
In terms of total jobs, the county reported adding 30,100 nonfarm-related payroll positions between August and September. Much of those gains were seen in the public sector, as 9,900 government jobs were added.
“Local government climbed by 9,500 jobs, due to seasonal gains in local government education as classes resumed following summer breaks,” the county said in a press release last month.
The county further explained that while 10,800 education jobs were added, non-educational related positions decreased by 1,300. About 1,200 state government positions were added but federal government positions dropped by 800.
The county’s latest jobs numbers also got another considerable bump from the professional and business services industry, which added 7,400 payroll positions, according to the report. The leisure and hospitality industry also contributed 5,200 jobs to the gains in September.
The only industry that reported job losses was the information sector, which saw a decline in payroll from 22,000 in August to 21,800 in September.
While the county has experienced growth in jobs and a decline in unemployment since the start of the pandemic, it’s still far off from where it was year ago, when Orange County had an estimated unemployment rate of 2.5%.
In September 2019, the county reported a total of more than 1.67 million jobs—a decrease of 162,200 jobs compared to this past September.
The county’s latest jobs numbers coincide with the statewide data, as California reported gaining 96,000 jobs in September. The state’s month-over comparison notes that there were nearly 15.89 million jobs reported in August compared to the 15.98 million positions in September.
The leisure and hospitality industry was the biggest contributor, adding 48,400 jobs, according to the state. The trade, transportation and utilities industry also contributed to the overall growth with 30,600 payroll positions added.
The state noted that it’s regained more than a third, or 38%, of the more than 2.61 million nonfarm jobs that were lost during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic in March and April.
Shawn Raymundo is the city editor for the San Clemente Times. He graduated from Arizona State University with a bachelor’s degree in Global Studies. Before joining Picket Fence Media, he worked as the government accountability reporter for the Pacific Daily News in the U.S. territory of Guam. Follow him on Twitter @ShawnzyTsunami and follow San Clemente Times @SCTimesNews.