L.A.'s job picture brightened in February as the county gained 27,000 non-farm jobs, led by hefty increases in education, the information sector and professional and business services, according to state figures released Friday.

The California Economic Development Department reported that L.A. County had a total of 4,107,600 non-farm jobs in February, up 27,000, or 0.7 percent, from January and 1.1 percent from Feb. 2006.

The unemployment rate remained steady at 4.6 percent in February compared to January, but was still well below the 5.0 percent mark recorded in February 2006. More people entered the labor force and were able to find work last month.

The county saw job gains in nine of the 11 broad sectors the state tracks. The biggest gains came in education (6,000), the information sector that includes motion picture and sound recording (5,500) and professional and business services (5,300).

"This was a pretty much across the board increase in jobs, which shows that despite people fretting about a weak housing market or high gas prices, we have an economy that continues to boom," said Jack Kyser, chief economist with the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp.

Even manufacturing managed to eke out a slight gain of 3,000 jobs in February, although it's still down 7,700 jobs from a year ago.

Of course, the February numbers do not take into account the layoffs now sweeping through the subprime lending sector, where more than 1,000 jobs were lost in March alone. Those layoffs won't show up in the state figures until the workers file for unemployment after they've used up their severance pay, Kyser said.

Some layoffs will be offset by growth in the banking sector as new business and ethnic banks continue to form and major out-of-state financial institutions such as Wachovia Corp. and Comerica Inc. open up more bank branches here.

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