Los Angeles Business Journal

L.A. Unemployment Rate Drops, More Jobs in County

By Howard Fine Originally published March 7, 2014 at 2:30 p.m., updated March 13, 2014 at 4:24 p.m.

L.A.’s jobless rate dipped below 9 percent in January for the first time in nearly six years, according to state figures released Friday.

The state Employment Development Department also reported that the county also lost nearly 63,000 jobs between December and January as post-holiday layoffs hit the retail sector.

Meanwhile, an annual revision resulted in 200,000 more jobs showing up on employer payrolls in the county than previously estimated.

The county’s unemployment rate for January fell to 8.9 percent, the lowest level since November 2008. December’s rate was 9.2 percent. More households reported people finding work in January, though the total number of people in the labor force dropped slightly as some fell out of the count when their benefits expired.

The county’s jobless rate still exceeded the statewide rate of 8.1 percent and was well above the national rate of 6.6 percent. And the unemployment rates in the county’s two largest cities – Los Angeles and Long Beach – still hovered near 10 percent.

The number of payroll jobs dropped by 1.5 percent between December and January, led by 15,000 post-holiday layoffs in the retail sector. Also losing seasonal jobs were temporary employment services (down 9,000 jobs) and higher education (down 7,000 jobs). The entertainment industry shed 6,000 jobs as that sector continued to grapple with the impact of runaway production.

But the payroll jobs data were scrambled by the federal government’s annual revision, which included additional data sources and updated sampling methods. That revision resulted in 4.2 million jobs showing up on employer payrolls in the county in December, 200,000 more than previously estimated. And similar upward revisions were reported for October and November.

Most of the additional 200,000 jobs came from a state decision to start including home healthcare workers in the payroll jobs count, according to an analysis of the jobs data from Beacon Economics, a Los Angeles consulting firm. That decision came after state laws passed last year to regulate the home health care industry and require overtime pay for home health care workers on long shifts. Taking out this change, Beacon said the upward revision in payroll jobs was 36,000.

While the EDD figures indicate the county lost 63,000 jobs between December and January, that loss came from a higher jobs base than previously estimated.

These revisions indicate the county’s job creation machine has actually been more robust than previously thought. In the past 12 months, the county added 91,000 jobs for a growth rate of 2.3 percent, a rate not seen since before the recession. The biggest gains have come in professional and business services, up 27,000 jobs, and health care/social assistance, up 19,000 jobs.

Manufacturing continued its slide, losing 7,000 jobs over the past year.

These revisions did not surprise one local employment services executive, who says she’s seeing local employers creating more new full-time job positions.

“Full-time hiring is at the best level we’ve seen in six years,” said Brandi Britton, district president for Los Angeles, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties for Robert Half International of Menlo Park. She said hiring was strongest in real estate, financial services and e-commerce firms.

Britton also said employer confidence is also up. “We’re seeing stable, solid growth. Our clients are no longer in fear of what will happen with the economy next month,” she said.