Opinion

Commentary: Northrop Grumman adds jobs while subtracting others

It wasn't exactly a surprise when Northrop Grumman Corp. announced last week that it was shedding 750 jobs as it consolidated two Los Angeles divisions and eliminated redundant administrative and support positions.

That kind of news has become all too common in this moribund economy.

Far more eye-catching was this nugget that did not make the headlines: The same firm has about 850 openings for jobs that are highly paid with good health plans and other benefits.

While the economy has been slowing, Northrop Grumman has been growing.

The Century City-based company has a piece of several military aerospace contracts that just happen to be ramping up as business elsewhere is cooling.

"We are still out there looking for people," Jim Hart, a company spokesman, told me last week.

Northrop's story might be unusual, but it is not unique. Even in a down economy, some companies are creating jobs. They just tend to be overwhelmed by those that are cutting them.

California lost a net of nearly 500,000 jobs between January 2008 and January 2009, according to data from the state Employment Development Department.

The big losses were in construction, which lost about 130,000 jobs; trade, transportation and utilities, which eliminated 145,000 positions; and professional and business services, which lost about 77,000 jobs.

Unemployment rose from 6.1 percent a year ago to 10.1 percent this January.

Yet even amid that carnage, a few sectors added jobs. Natural resources and mining added about 600 positions. The big gainers, relatively speaking, were education and health care. Education services added 11,000 jobs while health care firms hired an additional 29,000 people.

The experience at Northrop Grumman shows how even at one company, some jobs can be created even as others are going away.

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