L.A. County’s unemployment rate remained unchanged in June from May’s record low 4.4 percent as a seasonal drop in education payrolls offset modest hiring in other sectors.
While a net 8,000 more L.A. County residents were working in June for a total of 4.9 million, that was offset by growth of 6,000 in the labor force to 5.12 million as more people looked for work. A year ago, the unemployment rate stood at 5.2 percent.
The June unemployment rate was below the 4.7 percent statewide rate, but even with the national percentage. The unemployment rates for the county’s two largest cities – Los Angeles and Long Beach – were 4.8 percent and 4.9 percent, respectively.
Meanwhile, the number of payroll jobs in L.A. County was essentially unchanged between May and June at 4.45 million. There was a tiny drop of 1,500 jobs, led by a net loss of 12,000 in education payroll jobs as substitute teachers, classroom aides and other school personnel left at the end of the school year.
Adjusted for this seasonal effect, the number of payroll jobs rose by 3,000. That growth was led by net gains of 6,600 jobs in the leisure/hospitality sector, 4,700 jobs in professional/business services and 3,100 jobs in construction.
One local economist said the June jobs picture was a sign of an economy close to full employment.
“We’re about as good as it’s going to get in terms of full employment,” said David Smith, associate professor of economics at the Graziadio School of Business and Management at Pepperdine University in Malibu. “We may be able to wrestle out a few more small drops in the unemployment rate in the months ahead, but the biggest improvement has already occurred.”
Smith said the growth in jobs and the drop in the unemployment rate over the past few years in L.A. County has completely closed the gap with the national averages.
“Back in 2010, the spread between Los Angeles County and the national average for the unemployment rate was more than three full percentage points,” Smith said. “Now they are dead even – no gap at all.”
And even looking at the gains over the past year, the county has performed well. Between June of last year and this June, the county gained a net 83,600 jobs for a growth rate of 1.9 percent. That growth rate is a bit faster than the year-over-year job growth rates L.A. has experienced in recent months.
Among the biggest job gainers over the past 12 months: professional/business services (up 18,300 jobs); health care/social assistance (up 17,800 jobs); and government (up 14,300 jobs).
Smith said he was a bit surprised by the large gains in government payrolls and said that was a sign that local government budgets and the state government budget are sound, allowing for more hiring.
Public policy and energy reporter Howard Fine can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @howardafine.