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Orange County Report Identifies Recession- and Pandemic-Resilient Jobs Feature Story

October 30, 2020

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc on regional economies across the country, Orange County’s Center of Excellence for Labor Market Research (OC COE) is looking at what the economic challenges of the past can tell us about Orange County’s economic future. 

The recently published Resilient Jobs: Top Jobs During the Great Recession and COVID-19 Pandemic is an in-depth analysis of Orange County industries and occupations that appear resilient during economic downturns and the current global pandemic. While the economic impacts of the Great Recession and those caused by the COVID-19 pandemic are not identical, the report suggests many similarities that are worth considering as they relate to the economic recovery of the region.

To download the full report, click here. 

“The main question we’re answering from a community college standpoint is, ‘Where should we be focusing our finite resources in order to best support Orange County’s economic recovery?” explains OC COE director Dr. Jesse Crete. “But in addition to that, the report is a holistic analysis of Orange County and the present state of our ‘economic ecosystem’ with an eye towards the role that different stakeholder groups might play in the future recovery of the region. It’s really pretty unique.”

As the report states: “The OC COE encourages stakeholders to use this study as a resource for meaningful and engaging discussions. This study was produced in the hope that it would provide guidance for the community colleges as they prioritize and develop programs for students to become more resilient in the labor market.”

In addition to providing insight for community colleges, the report includes data on resilient jobs that require more than just a two-year degree. Because of this, Crete is excited about its broad relevance to Orange County’s many different stakeholder groups.

“I’m excited because it’s something that will be useful to not only our community colleges, but our four-years and other Orange County partners,” says Crete. “It’s not often that we at the COE get to do something that can really be used broadly like this. I’m particularly excited about that.”

Using a similar report from San Diego’s own COE as its foundation, Crete and OC COE research analyst Jacob Poore, with input from Dr. Robert Kleinhenz, principal economist at Kleinhenz Economics, revised the methodology to take into account the unique characteristics of Orange County (like its higher living wage) and also to include a wider span of time.

“San Diego gave us a great starting point and we couldn’t have done it without them,” says Crete. “In addition to shifting our methodology to take into consideration Orange County’s unique economic and demographic profile, we expanded the timeline because we wanted to see not just how the recession affected industries, but how those industries recovered and what it looked like prior so we could really see the trends, where things dipped, and where there was growth.”  

For the purpose of the study, industries and occupations that experienced employment growth or sustained employment levels prior to, during, and after the Great Recession (2007-2009) were considered recession-resilient industries and jobs. By looking at which industries and jobs remained strong and even thrived during the post-Great Recession economy, the report is able to provide insight into which industries are impacted the least by such economic downturns and which jobs are likely to provide the most security to workers. 

Using data collected from the economic modeling research firm EMSI and Burning Glass Technologies (an analytics software company that provides real-time data on job postings and labor market demand), the report then compared the recession-resilient jobs with regional online job postings between March and August 2020 to further determine which occupations are also pandemic-resilient.

A few key findings from the report include:

  • Recession-resilient industries: Only 92 industries, of the nearly 1,000 industries in the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS), have been identified as recession-resilient industries within Orange County.
  • Recession-resilient jobs: Only 35 occupations, of the more than 800 occupations in the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) system, have been identified as recession-resilient jobs in Orange County. Of those 35 recession-resilient jobs, 15 are considered middle-skill jobs, or jobs that could be trained by community college programs.
  • Pandemic-resilient jobs: There are 126 occupations that met the criteria to be considered pandemic-resilient. Of those, only 17 met the criteria to also be considered recession-resilient. More than 225,000 online job postings listed between March and June 2020 were reviewed to identify the top 100 jobs in each month, by number of job postings, within Orange County. During this period, the aforementioned 126 occupations made the monthly top 100 jobs list at least once.
  • Recession- and pandemic-resilient, middle-skill jobs: There are 7 middle-skill jobs, or jobs that could be trained by community college programs, of the 17 recession- and pandemic-resilient jobs.

The below table, taken from the report, lists recession- and pandemic-resilient occupations in Orange County. Asterisks denote middle-skill jobs.

Occupation

Typical Entry-Level Education

Entry-Level Hourly Earnings (25th Percentile)

Median Hourly Earnings

Compliance Officers

Bachelor’s degree

$27.95

$38.11

Computer Network Architects*

Bachelor’s degree

$37.56

$53.10

Human Resources Specialists

Bachelor’s degree

$24.50

$31.43

Lawyers

Doctoral or professional degree

$38.29

$65.04

Life, Physical, and Social Science Technicians, All Other*

Associate degree

$17.98

$24.44

Management Analysts

Bachelor’s degree

$29.76

$41.85

Market Research Analysts and Marketing Specialists

Bachelor’s degree

$22.98

$30.67

Medical and Health Services Managers

Bachelor’s degree

$40.12

$58.48

Medical Scientists, Except Epidemiologists

Doctoral or professional degree

$41.64

$49.04

Personal Service Managers, All Other; Entertainment and Recreation Managers, Except Gambling; and Managers, All Other

Bachelor’s degree

$24.99

$44.80

Though recession and pandemic-resilient middle-skill jobs are the most relevant to the current economic climate, the report suggests that “Orange County Community Colleges should also consider focusing on existing programs that train for pandemic-resilient occupations to meet short-term needs brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, while also focusing on recession-resilient occupations for long-term planning and program development.”

Crete is quick to point out that the report outlines resilient occupations across a wide variety of education levels, spanning everything from doctoral degrees to noncredit certificates. “It really goes to show how important our colleges are and that they’re doing valuable work that is critically important to our economy,” says Crete.

In addition to providing immediate insights into the current and projected state of Orange County’s economy and workforce, the report will also be used in the broader Orange County Economic Recovery Strategy (OCERS), a region-wide project initiated by Orange County Workforce Development Executive Director Carma Lacy and being spearheaded by Dr. Gustavo Chamorro, Orange County director of the Los Angeles Orange County Regional Consortium and assisted by Crete.

“The big project is the Orange County Economic Recovery Strategy, which is going to go into much greater depth on all of these issues,” explains Crete. “This short little piece gets to the crux of the issue for community colleges, which is where we focus in terms of programs. And that’s where the resilient jobs report comes in.”

Divided into three teams focusing on research, economic recovery, and workforce recovery, OCERS expects to be making its first projections and strategy recommendations in the next month.

“On one hand, this always comes back to helping students succeed,” says Crete. “But in the current climate, that means understanding how we support the success of the entire region. These projects give us the broad brushstrokes for what recovery might look like so that we can mobilize resources around the things we can do at a granular level for students and for businesses to invest in programs and services that will support that.”

To read the full report, download it here. For more information about the Orange County Center of Excellence and the research services it provides, visit https://www.rsccd.edu/For-Business/Pages/OC-Center-of-Excellence.aspx.