L.A. County’s unemployment rate fell to 4.9 percent in May, the first time it has fallen below 5 percent in nine years, according to state figures released Friday.

The drop from 5.1 percent in April continues a rapid decline in the county’s unemployment rate and is close to a record low. A year ago the rate stood at 7 percent, while five years ago, the unemployment rate peaked at 13 percent.

The unemployment rate in the city of Los Angeles was a mere 4.5 percent, one of the lowest readings ever.

“It’s now a very tight labor market favoring the employee,” said Brett Good, senior district president with Robert Half International, a Menlo Park staffing firm. “Employers are now having a very difficult time filling positions; many are making counteroffers and boosting programs to retain their existing highly-skilled employees.”

Statewide, the unemployment rate dropped slightly to 5.2 percent in May from 5.3 percent in April. The national unemployment rate also fell to 4.7 percent in May from 5 percent in April.

Meanwhile, the pace of job creation in the county slowed as only about 5,000 people were added to employer payrolls in May. The biggest gains came in accommodation/food services, local government and construction. The entertainment sector posted the biggest drop, though that followed several months of major gains.

Over the past 12 months, the county gained 101,000 jobs for a very robust growth rate of 2.4 percent. The biggest gainer was health care/social assistance, up 28,000 jobs, followed by major gains in accommodation/food services and professional/business services. Manufacturing continued its long term slide, shedding 7,600 jobs over the past year.

Public policy and energy reporter Howard Fine can be reached at hfine@labusinessjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter @howardafine.