L.A. County’s unemployment rate fell in June to 7.4 percent from 7.6 percent in May following a modest gain in employer payrolls, state figures released Friday show.

The slight drop in the county’s unemployment rate followed three months during which the rate held steady, according to data from the state Employment Development Department. The drop came as more county residents reported finding jobs and fewer reported they were not working.

The unemployment rate is down from 8.2 percent a year ago and is at the lowest level since June 2008, though it remains higher than the 6.3 percent statewide unemployment rate and well above the national rate of 5.3 percent.

The county’s two largest cities, Los Angeles and Long Beach, reported unemployment rates of 7.7 percent and 8 percent respectively.

The state figures show the county, which has slightly more than 4.3 million nonfarm jobs, gained just 2,200 payroll jobs in June, traditionally a weak time for job growth as schools let out for summer vacation. But the total is now just 700 jobs shy of the all-time payroll jobs high reached in December and is 21,000 jobs above the previous peak of December 2007.

This marks the third month of slight job growth in the county and appears to reflect a slowdown in hiring, according to one local job recruiting executive.

“Companies still have positions open, but they are often not willing to pull the trigger right now and hire,” said Brandi Britton, Los Angeles region district president for Menlo Park staffing firm Robert Half International.

Some of that hesitation, Britton said, is due to employers having already filled more general positions and now taking their time to fill positions requiring more specialized skills.

The modest job gains were spread around a number of industry sectors, including professional and business services, retail, restaurants and construction.

As expected, education was the biggest job loser, shedding a net 9,400 jobs as the school year ended for substitute teachers and other non-tenured personnel. The government and manufacturing sectors also registered slight job losses.

Over the past 12 months, the county gained a net 106,000 jobs for a robust growth rate of 2.5 percent. Health care/social assistance, wholesale and retail trade, restaurants and government all gained at least 10,000 jobs over the past year. Manufacturing was the only sector to lose jobs, shedding 3,500.

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