L.A.'s job picture brightened in May as the county's unemployment rate fell to 4.7 percent and the county gained 10,000 jobs from April thanks to strong growth in the entertainment and hospitality sectors, according to figures released Friday by the state Employment Development Department.


L.A. County's 4.7 percent unemployment rate in May was down from 5.0 percent in April and 4.9 percent in May 2006. The drop was due in large part to seasonal hiring in the hospitality sector as the region's hotels, amusement parks and other attractions gear up for the summer tourist season.


Meanwhile, the county reported total non-farm wage and salaried employment rose by 10,000 or 0.2 percent to a total of 4,138,900 jobs. That's also up nearly 50,000, or 1.2 percent, from a year ago and indicates a resumption of the trend towards steady, moderate job growth. That trend was briefly interrupted by April's poor jobs showing.


Statewide, the picture was not so bright. The unemployment rate edged up slightly to 5.2 percent from 5.1 percent and the net non-farm job gain for May was a sluggish 10,000, all of that from L.A. County. Year over year, non-farm jobs have increased by 221,000, or 1.3 percent, to 17,227,000.


"With L.A.'s economy rolling along at a nice clip, the biggest surprise is how sluggish the rest of the state has been," said Jack Kyser, chief economist with the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp.


One major factor contributing to the growth in May was a jump of 5,200 jobs, or 4.1 percent, in motion picture and sound recording employment. Kyser said this abnormally large increase may be a sign that television producers are stockpiling episodes in advance of a possible strike by Writers Guild of America members later this summer.


Another surprisingly strong sector in May was construction, which many analysts expected to see slow down as the soft housing market enters its second year. But overall construction employment was up 1,200 jobs or 1 percent in May from April and is virtually flat over the last year. Even specialty trade contractor employment, which includes building foundation and exterior contractors, was up in May, though it's down slightly over the last year.


"There's still some money in the construction market, especially on the public works and commercial side, which is offsetting the housing market," said Brad Kemp, Los Angeles area labor market analyst with the EDD.


A major weak spot in L.A.'s employment picture continues to be manufacturing, which lost another 1,000 jobs in May and is down 8,000 jobs on the year. "It's been a pretty bleak picture for manufacturing. About the only good thing we can say is that the pace of decline has moderated a bit in recent months," Kemp said.

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