Los Angeles Business Journal

L.A. Jobless Rate Falls Slightly

By Howard Fine Originally published December 21, 2012 at 2:02 p.m., updated December 21, 2012 at 12:24 p.m.

L.A. County’s unemployment rate fell to 10.2 percent in November, its lowest point in nearly four years, according to state figures released Friday.

The county also added more than 17,000 payroll jobs in November, mostly due to seasonal hiring in the retail sector, the state Employment Development Department reported.

The unemployment rate dropped from 10.5 percent in October and was down sharply from 12.1 percent in November of last year. The 10.2 percent figure still exceeded the statewide average of 9.8 percent – the first time in more than four years that the state figure was in single digits. And it was well above the national average of 7.7 percent.

Locally, the county’s two largest cities, Los Angeles and Long Beach, posted unemployment rates of 10.9 percent and 10.8 percent respectively in November, both down from 11.2 percent in October.

“With fewer people unemployed, we’re starting to see people who have remained frozen in place deciding to move to jobs at other companies,” said Brandi Britton, manager of the Los Angeles region for Robert Half International, a Menlo Park staffing firm. “This is creating vacancies that companies are moving to fill.”

Nonfarm payroll employment in Los Angeles County rose by 17,400 last month to top 3.9 million jobs. The surge in seasonal hiring in the retail sector accounted for virtually all of this increase, with stores adding 16,800 jobs. The motion picture industry also added 5,000 jobs.

These gains were offset by an unusual drop in professional and business services, which lost 2,800 jobs. The sector had been posting substantial employment gains for most of this year.

“We did see a slight leveling off of hiring in the professional and business services sector in October and November,” Britton said. “Some firms told us they were freezing their staffing levels because they weren’t certain about the election outcome.”

Unlike the unemployment figures, which are derived from a household survey, the payroll jobs data come from a sampling of local employer payroll filings with the state.

Los Angeles County’s jobs picture also improved significantly over the past year, with more than 68,000 jobs added to payrolls, for a growth rate of 1.8 percent.