L.A. County’s unemployment rate dipped below 6 percent in November for the first time in eight years as holiday retail hiring led broad job gains, state figures released Friday show.
November’s unemployment rate was 5.9 percent, down from 6.1 percent in October and 8 percent a year ago, according to figures from the state Employment Development Department. This time, the rate dropped because more Los Angeles residents reported they were working; in previous months the rate had fallen as more people dropped out of the labor force.
Giving a sense of how far L.A. County has come, in July 2010, the unemployment rate was 13.2 percent, more than twice the current level.
In another positive development, the unemployment rate in the county’s largest city, Los Angeles, fell to 6 percent from 6.3 percent. Historically, the city’s unemployment rate has been significantly higher than the countywide average.
November’s statewide unemployment rate was 5.7 percent, down from 5.8 percent in October. The national rate was 5 percent.
Meanwhile, employers in the county added 22,000 jobs last month as total payroll employment swelled to nearly 4.4 million. Retail employers added 13,700 jobs in preparation for the holiday shopping season. Once adjusted for this seasonal effect, November’s payroll employment in the county actually dropped a bit, with 1,700 fewer jobs than October.
Other gainers included local public and private schools, up about 4,000 jobs, and the healthcare/social assistance sector, which added 3,600 jobs.
The notoriously volatile entertainment sector posted the biggest job losses, down 3,800, while manufacturing continued its decline, shedding 1,500 jobs.
Looking over the longer term, employers added 73,000 jobs between November of last year and this November, for a growth rate of 1.7 percent. That’s a slight slowdown from the 2 percent growth rate the county has seen in recent months.
Healthcare/social assistance led the way, adding 25,000 jobs over the past 12 months. Accommodation/food services gained 17,000 jobs, followed by professional/business services with 16,000 additional jobs.
On the losing side, both the manufacturing and entertainment sectors shed about 7,500 jobs. Manufacturing continued its long, steady decline, but the drop in entertainment, amounting to more than 5 percent of the sector’s total workforce, was a surprise, especially considering that ramped up state incentives have been credited with keeping productions from leaving the state.
But industry watchers offered a couple possible explanations for the year-over-year drop in entertainment. They said Walt Disney Co., Warner Bros. and Paramount have all announced layoffs since November 2014. And a long-term trend of converting “below-the-line” production employees to independent contractors has continued unabated. Independent contractors are not counted in the state’s payroll employment survey.