L.A. County’s jobs picture continued its gradual improvement in February, according to state figures released Friday.

The county’s unemployment rate remained unchanged at 11.8 percent in February compared to January, according to figures from the state Employment Development Department. However, tens of thousands more people entered the workforce in February looking for work.

The county added 29,000 payroll jobs in February, led by gains in entertainment, private education and professional/business services.

Yet the county’s unemployment rate has remained stubbornly high, drifting down only 0.5 of a percentage point from 12.3 percent a year ago. The picture is even bleaker in the county’s two largest cities, Los Angeles and Long Beach, which posted unemployment rates of 13.3 percent and 13.2 percent respectively.

By contrast, the state’s unemployment rate was 10.9 percent in February, down more than a percentage point from 12 percent a year ago. The rest of the nation has fared better, with the national unemployment rate in February at 8.3 percent, down from 9 percent a year ago.

The news was more encouraging for February’s payroll jobs figures, which are derived from a separate survey of employer payrolls. Eight of the county’s 11 industry sectors showed gains, pushing the total payroll jobs figure back over 3.8 million.

The gain in jobs may be due in part to an annual statistical adjustment which severely impacted January’s payroll jobs data. Adjusted for seasonal factors, L.A. County actually lost 8,400 payroll jobs, according to an analysis of the employment data also released Friday by Beacon Economics, a Los Angeles consulting firm.

The entertainment sector led the way in job growth, adding more than 11,000 jobs. However, part of that may be a statistical bounce from the extreme negative adjustment in January that showed the industry losing 24,000 jobs.

Other sectors posting gains in payroll jobs in February included private education (up 7,700 jobs) and professional/business services (up 6,300). The only sector showing a significant drop was retail, which lost 6,000 jobs.

In the year-over-year jobs figures, the county added nearly 21,000 jobs for a growth rate of 0.6 percent. Professional and business services have led the way, adding 13,000 jobs, followed by private education with nearly 8,000 jobs. Local government payrolls shrank by 6,700 jobs over the past year.

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