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Thursday, Jun 8, 2023

L.A. County Unemployment Rate Rises to 5% in March

Los Angeles County’s unemployment rate rose to 5% in March, up from 4.9% in February despite employers in the county adding nearly 20,000 jobs during the month, according to state figures released April 21.

The figures from the state Employment Development Department indicate the slight tick up in the unemployment rate was due to 12,000 more Los Angeles County residents entering the labor force looking for – and in some cases finding – work.

Since the pandemic hit in early 2020, roughly a quarter million county residents have left the workforce – including some suffering from Covid-19 and others caring for ill family members or providing child care. Only in recent months has this trend begun to reverse as the Covid pandemic has eased; in February the workforce increased to 4.98 million.

The county’s unemployment rate remains higher than both the state and national rates. California reported an unemployment rate of 4.4% in March, while the national rate was 3.5%. But the rate was an improvement over the 5.3% reading posted in March of last year.

The EDD also provides a breakout of unemployment rates by city and community within the county. The two largest cities – Los Angeles and Long Beach – posted rates of 5.1% and 5% respectively. Among cities with a labor force exceeding 10,000, Lomita had the lowest unemployment rate at 2% while Calabasas had the highest rate at 7.1%.

Turning to the payroll jobs front, March typically sees the continuation of a significant rebound from steep job losses in January and this year was no exception. Employers in the county added a net 19,800 jobs to their payrolls in March, bringing the total to 4.61 million.

The EDD also released a seasonally adjusted payroll jobs figure, which showed a net gain of 14,800 jobs in March from February.

Returning to the unadjusted figures, the accommodation and food services sector led the way with a net gain of 7,900 jobs in March. The volatile motion picture and sound recording industry was next, gaining a net 5,200 jobs. Local government education (primarily K-12) was next with a net gain of 4,400 jobs.

The construction sector posted the biggest drop in jobs in March, falling by 1,800 jobs. That’s not surprising given the near-record number of rainy days last month. The financial activities sector saw a net drop of 1,500 jobs, which may have been tied to the turmoil that rocked the banking industry following the closure of Silicon Valley Bank.

For the 12 months ending in March, the county gained 110,000 payroll jobs, or 2.5%, a slight improvement from the 102,000 jobs gained for the 12 months ending in February. The health care/social assistance sector was the biggest gainer with 38,000 additional jobs, followed by accommodation/food services (up 30,000 jobs) and professional/business services (up 17,600 jobs).

Motion picture/sound recording was the sector posting the biggest net drop in jobs during the 12 months ending in March, shedding 14,600 jobs. Employment in the construction sector dropped by roughly 6,600 jobs.

Going back three years to the pre-pandemic employment peak, the number of payroll jobs in the county last month was roughly 10,000 less than the 4.62 million recorded in February 2020. Or, to put it another way, the county has recovered nearly 99% of the 784,000 jobs lost during the pandemic-induced shutdown in March and April of 2020.

The county had briefly surpassed the February 2020 payroll employment peak toward the end of last year, but major seasonal job losses in January pushed it back down under that level.

Howard Fine
Howard Fine
Howard Fine is a 23-year veteran of the Los Angeles Business Journal. He covers stories pertaining to healthcare, biomedicine, energy, engineering, construction, and infrastructure. He has won several awards, including Best Body of Work for a single reporter from the Alliance of Area Business Publishers and Distinguished Journalist of the Year from the Society of Professional Journalists.

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