ORANGE, CA-Orange County’s job growth should pick up in 2003, according to an annual economic forecast by Chapman University, a trend that would improve the outlook for commercial real estate.

The university, based in the city of Orange, says that the weakness in the U.S. job market in 2002 reflected a delayed reaction to the 2001 recession, both here and throughout the rest of the country. But the forecast by the Anderson Center at Chapman says defense spending, international trade and Orange County construction spending are expected to push job growth from almost zero in 2002 to 1.6%, thereby adding 23,000 net new jobs. Real estate experts say job growth is a key to a healthy apartment market, but it is also an economic linchpin that bodes well for all sectors of commercial real estate.

“While such growth is certainly skimpy by historical standards, at least it represents a turnaround after four years of declining growth,” the Chapman report says.

The forecast sees the job growth picture as a turnaround from 2002, during which Orange County manufacturing employment declined sharply, with a loss of almost 6,500 jobs or 2.9%. But job growth actually showed some improvement in some sectors during 2002, with high-tech and other durable manufacturing sectors losing jobs at a lower rate toward the end of the year and the nondurable sector actually adding jobs.

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