L.A. County’s unemployment rate dipped to 5 percent in December amid modest job growth, state figures released Friday show.

The county’s unemployment rate dropped from 5.1 percent in November and from 6 percent a year ago, according to figures from the California Employment Development Department.

The reasons for the unemployment dip were not encouraging. The number of county residents reporting they were employed in December fell by 18,000 to 4,864,000. Meanwhile, 22,000 county residents left the labor force, either discouraged in their attempts to find work or taking a break from their job search for the holiday season.

Nonetheless, L.A. County’s unemployment rate was lower than the 5.2 percent statewide figure for November, though it was higher than the national rate of 4.7 percent.

On the jobs front, the survey of employer payrolls showed slowing growth, as the number of payroll jobs in L.A. County grew by 8,000 to 4.43 million. Retail trade was the biggest gainer, adding 4,800 jobs, thanks to last-minute seasonal hiring. The federal government, the financial sector and manufacturing all added between 1,000 and 2,000 jobs.

The entertainment sector shed the most jobs in December, dropping by 2,500, followed closely by professional/business services, which was down 2,400.

Companies that were hiring in December tended to hire workers on a strictly temporary basis to work on year-end projects, according to Brandi Britton, district president for the Los Angeles region for Robert Half International, a Menlo Park staffing firm.

Britton said things are looking brighter this month as more of her clients are looking to make full-time hires.

Job growth also slowed over the entire calendar year of 2016 as the county added 59,000 jobs for growth rate of 1.3 percent. That is considerably less than the 90,000 jobs added and growth rate of 2.2 percent for 2015.

Health care/social assistance was one of the biggest gainers, adding 15,000 jobs; that was followed by accommodation/food services ,up 13,000, and government ,up 12,000. The construction sector shed 5,000 jobs last year, closely followed by manufacturing, which lost 4,000 jobs as its long-term decline continued.

Public policy and energy reporter Howard Fine can be reached at hfine@labusinessjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter @howardafine.

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