Los Angeles Business Journal

County Unemployment Rate Falls Slightly

By Howard Fine Friday, January 20, 2012

Los Angeles County job growth slowed in December, even as the local unemployment rate edged down a tenth of a point to 11.8 percent, according to state figures released Friday.

Seasonal retail hiring and a year-end surge in accounting and bookkeeping jobs helped push December’s unemployment rate down from a revised 11.9 percent in November, according to the state Employment Development Department. The rate, based on a household employment survey, was down substantially from 13 percent in December 2010.

However, a separate survey of local employer payrolls showed the county only added a net 3,600 non-farm jobs – a modest amount compared to the nearly 11,000 jobs added in November.

The county’s two largest cities, Los Angeles and Long Beach,

continued to lag in employment. Los Angeles posted a December unemployment rate of 12.8 percent, while Long Beach recorded 12.7 percent, meaning more than one of every eight eligible workers in both cities was officially out of work.

Statewide, the unemployment rate fell to 11.1 percent in December from 11.3 percent in November. Both the state and local figures were much higher than the national average of 8.5 percent in December.

Retail trade was the biggest local gainer as employers added 5,400 jobs to handle an anticipated surge of last-minute holiday shoppers. While retail sales were sluggish early in the month, they picked up in the final week before Christmas.

Accounting, tax preparation and bookkeeping services added 4,200 jobs as employers made a year-end push to prepare taxes and 2012 budgets.

Meanwhile, budget stress continued at local governments, which posted the largest job loss of 3,400 jobs in December. Private education and health services, which had been consistent job gainers during the recession, each lost around 2,000 jobs. Construction employment declined by 1,500 jobs.