L.A. County’s unemployment rate fell to 4.4 percent in December, matching the record low hit last year, as the local economy continued to post modest job gains, according to figures released Jan. 19 by the California Employment Development Department.

The unemployment rate dropped a notch from 4.5 percent in November, primarily because the county’s labor pool shrunk by a net 12,000 to just under 5.17 million. Slightly fewer people may have been looking for work during the holiday season. Nonetheless, the record low rate is indicative of an economy at or near full employment.

For the first time in several months, L.A. County’s unemployment was a notch above the 4.3 percent statewide average, though it continued to be slightly more than the 4.1 percent national average.

On the payroll jobs front, the county continued to see modest growth, adding 8,300 jobs for a total of nearly 4.52 million, a record level. This uptick was led by increases in motion picture/sound recording (up 5,000), transportation/warehousing/utilities (up 3,300) and retail outlets (up 1,900).

The construction and leisure/hospitality sectors both saw job declines in December, shedding 2,700 and 1,800 jobs respectively.

Looking back over all of last year, the county added 55,000 jobs over the 12-month time span for a growth rate of 1.2 percent. That’s a slightly better performance than in recent months when the growth rate was below 1 percent.

For all of 2017, the healthcare/social assistance sector was by far the most robust, adding 23,400 jobs over the year. Other sectors posting gains were: motion picture/sound recording (up 11,600 jobs); professional/business services (up 9,800 jobs); financial activities (up 7,700); and construction (up 6,300).

Government payrolls led the sectors showing declines, shedding a net 7,300 jobs, fueled primarily by a drop of 11,000 in local K-12 education. Other sectors that slipped were trade/transportation/utilities (down 5,300 jobs), and manufacturing (down 2,200).

Economy, education, energy and transportation reporter Howard Fine can be reached at hfine@labusinessjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter @howardafine.

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