"This is the first study we're aware of focusing on South County. It's a way to take the temperature of the community."
The Coastal Chambers Legislative Coalition asked Edward Feasel of Soka University to prepare a study of the business climate in the so-called "South County" region, Feasel said.
Feasel and one of his students, Humroy Lopez, concentrated on 12 cities and compared South County region with other counties in the state.
Feasel said the South County has a lower unemployment rate, and higher wages, than Orange County overall, and, if measured as a separate county, would have the lowest unemployment rate in the state for the past decade. (Orange County had the lowest unemployment rate in the state in 2005, the report states.)
"This is a very impressive regional economy, and I predict it will continue to achieve new heights in the future," Feasel said.
If it were a county, South County would rank ninth in the state in taxable sales by county ? ahead of San Francisco and Fresno.
The number of well-paying jobs is offset by the high cost of housing, which has tripled over the past six years, the study shows.
If ranked alongside other counties in the state, South County home prices would be second only to Marin County in northern California, Feasel noted.
Housing costs in the region have risen dramatically from 2000 to 2006, compared with the previous 10 years, the data shows.
This corresponds to the incorporation and huge growth of two of the area's newest cities ? Aliso Viejo and Rancho Santa Margarita.
The 30% growth in South County was the highest in Orange County, Feasel said, three times faster than the rest of the county between 1990 and 2005. This puts South County number 11 statewide.