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By Shawn Raymundo

California’s workforce continued to feel the pinch from the pandemic and resulting economic crisis as the jobless rate grew to 9% in the month of December—when new stay-at-home orders were issued for the state amid the winter surge of the coronavirus.

According to the state’s jobs report released Friday, Jan. 22, more than 52,000 nonfarm jobs were lost in December, causing unemployment to increase by 0.9% compared to the previous month. Orange County, which accounted for about 8,100 of those lost jobs, experienced a similar uptick with unemployment growing to 7.4%, up from the 6.4% in November.

The latest unemployment numbers from California’s Employment Development Department marked the first time the state saw a rise in the jobless rate since April 2020. At that time, unemployment was reported at 16.2%, with nearly three million Californians out of work.

“Despite December’s losses, California has regained more than 44 percent of the 2,615,800 nonfarm jobs that were lost due to the COVID-19 pandemic in March and April,” the state noted in its report.

Among the South Orange County cities of Dana Point, San Clemente and San Juan Capistrano, the three towns collectively had an unemployment rate of 6.6% in December, an increase of 1.2% from the month prior.

The City of Dana Point’s budget relies heavily on the transient occupancy tax (TOT) implemented on local hotels, including Laguna Cliffs Marriott Resort & Spa. Photo: File/Lillian Boyd

San Clemente had the largest unemployment rate with 6.8% of its labor force out of work, according to the state’s data. Dana Point’s jobless rate was at 6.6% while 6.3% of San Juan’s labor force was unemployed last month.

The leisure and hospitality industry took the biggest hit in December, losing 117,000 payroll jobs statewide. More than 14,000 of those positions were lost here in Orange County, according to the jobs report.

Considerable job gains were seen in the construction industry, as well as the professional and business services sector, and in trade, transportation and utilities. Construction saw the biggest gains with 31,600 new payroll jobs. Another 29,600 jobs were regained in the professional and business services industry.

Prior to December, the state began to see glimpses of economic improvement. However, amid the surge of coronavirus cases and hospitalizations, resulting in a significant depletion of beds in intensive care units, the state imposed another round of regional stay-at-home orders.

The Southern California region, which includes the counites of Orange, Los Angeles and San Diego, went into lockdown on Dec. 7, after the area’s available ICU capacity dropped below the 15% threshold. The order put a moratorium on all in-person dining, bars, breweries, wineries, hair salons and barbershops, and personal care services.

As of this week, the Southern California region remained under the regional stay-at-home order. The state won’t lift the order until the region can show in a four-week project that its available ICU bed capacity will be at 15% or greater.

The Southern California region and Orange County were again both listed at 0.0% adjusted ICU availability on Tuesday, Jan. 12.

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