05/04/2017 Toby Dayton

Orange County insight: Will cool job numbers heat up in time for summer?

The temperatures are rising as spring heats up, but the job market in Orange County, California, is cool as a cucumber.

Job openings in the 3rd most populous county in sunny California (behind Los Angeles and San Diego) hit a 3-year low in January 2017, with 18,200 open jobs listed in the LinkUp Index. After 3 years of fairly stable labor demand, this has many of the county’s 3 million-plus residents scratching their heads.


We dug into our most recent numbers to see what trends were emerging in hopes of garnering some insight. Because LinkUp only indexes jobs directly from employer websites — with daily updates of more than 3.5 million from over 30,000 employers — we know our numbers are accurate because they don’t include data pollution such as expired jobs, duplicate listings, and job scams.

We discovered the top industries for current job openings are retail, health care and accommodation/food service. Not surprisingly, the largest concentrations of job openings are in the larger cities in Orange County such as Irvine, Anaheim, Santa Ana, Orange and Costa Mesa.


Health care job openings: 16% of the jobs open in Orange County are in the health care industry. St. Joseph Health currently has the highest number of job openings in the county.

Retail job openings: 21% of the jobs open in Orange County are in the retail industry. PetSmart, for example, is 2nd behind St. Joseph Health in overall job openings in the county.

Accommodation and food service job openings: 13% of the jobs open in Orange County are in the accommodation and food service industries. Pizza Hut is currently ranked No. 5 for top job openings in the county.

These numbers closely reflect what’s happening in the state of California, but when you look at the big picture, there’s clearly a slowing trend. Government indexes show that starting late last year, Southern California’s metropolitan areas grew at their slowest pace since 2010, according to the The Orange County Register.

One reason is large employers are shifting strategies. In late 2014 there was a spike in Orange County job openings thanks to Boeing’s need to staff a new Engineering Design Center in the Long Beach area. Recent reports say change is on the horizon, with more than 2,400 jobs expected to be moved out of Boeing’s Huntington Beach facility over the next 4 years. This announcement essentially cuts the number of workers on that campus in half.

Beyond big business, there are other factors to consider as well. After a wet winter finally ended a 5-year drought, some people are blaming the rain for the sluggish job market, especially in industries like construction, retail and hospitality that are significantly impacted by weather.

“The last time growth was this slow was 5 years ago as the recovery from the recession was just beginning,” reports Jonathan Lansner of The Orange County Register.

Will this trend continue? We’ll have to see if the hot summer days warm the job market or if Orange County is in for a long-term job market cool-down.

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