Oct 15 2017

8 scary trends for Orange County’s economy and job market

This article appears as it was published in The Orange County Register October 15, 2017

Orange County’s economy has clear strengths: low unemployment (4.2 percent in August), rising per capita income and job growth in several stand-out industries, from tourism to medical device manufacturing.

But disruptive new forces — along with some longstanding weaknesses — pose serious threats, as outlined in a 100-page Workforce Indicators Report, issued this week by the Orange County Development Board, a government agency, and the Orange County Business Council, a trade group of large companies.

“It is a time of change,” economist Wallace Walrod, the report’s chief author, told a gathering of 200 business executives, nonprofit representatives and government officials at an Irvine gathering last week. “Orange County faces some persistent, long-term problems.”

Here are some of the more worrisome trends.

Brain drain

Between now and 2060 — that’s 43 years! — Orange County’s working-age population will grow by just 2 percent, and the proportion of children will shrink significantly.

So how will businesses find enough workers?

“Orange County’s high cost of living and lack of affordable workforce housing often price young workforce talent out of the area, potentially leading to a ‘brain drain,’” according to the report, which noted that employers already have a hard time finding enough skilled job candidates.

“A less robust workforce talent pool could make Orange County a less attractive destination for businesses.”

Schools will be forced to adjust. In the next decade, K-12 enrollment will shrink by 10 percent, according to the California Department of Finance.

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