L.A.'s job picture flattened out in October as the unemployment rate remained unchanged from September at 5.1 percent and payroll job growth was a mere 0.2 percent, according to figures released Friday.

Over the longer term, however, job growth has slowed sharply as the construction and finance industries have been hit hard by the housing slowdown and mortgage loan crisis.

Only 29,000 jobs were created between October 2006 and 2007 for a growth rate of 0.7 percent, about half the growth rate seen a year earlier, according to the state Employment Development Department. The unemployment rate also rose to 5.1 percent from an historic low 4.5 percent in that time frame.

"There's no question the rate of year-over-year job growth is slowing. Businesses are much more cautious now. They are not in expansion mode like they were a year ago," said Jack Kyser, chief economist with the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp.

Construction employment fell by 4,500 jobs, or 2.8 percent, between October 2006 and October 2007, while finance/insurance sector jobs declined by 1,000 jobs, or 0.5 percent, with much of that coming in the last month.

The October jobs report contained a curious 6.5 percent plunge in motion picture and sound recording payroll jobs from September even as studios were rushing to complete projects in advance of the writers strike that began November 5. A total of 9,000 jobs were lost.

"It's possible that the studios hired temporary help to rush these projects through," Kyser said, pointing to a jump of 17,000 in civilian employment over the month. The civilian employment figures are compiled from household survey data and include freelance workers, independent contractors and people working off the books.

Also, despite a perceived slowdown in the economy and poor retail sales showing by major department stores, retail employment shot up 0.7 percent on the month, gaining nearly 3,000 jobs.

Statewide, the October unemployment rate was also unchanged from September at 5.6 percent, though that's up from 4.8 percent in October 2006. Non-farm payroll jobs fell by 15,800, or 0.1 percent, during the month, though that was up by 109,000 jobs, or 0.7 percent, from October 2006.

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