L.A. County’s labor force grew by 5,000 people between May and June to total of 5,146,000, according to figures released July 20 from the state Employment Development Department.

The growth of the labor force means more people were working or actively looking for work, a turn that typically accompanies confidence about the chances of finding a job.

The increase in the local labor force has not been as consistent over the last six months as it has been at the national level, but the sharpest rise in sentiment in the L.A. survey was among workers with part-time jobs.

More part-time workers felt they could improve their job prospects in the coming year, Shelton said.

“People are more confident in their ability to find a job in this tight (labor) market and the jobs are more appealing as well,” he said.

This increased confidence is showing up among job candidates at the Los Angeles office of Menlo Park staffing firm Robert Half International, according to Jon Swift, metro market manager for Robert Half Technology.

“Job candidates we see are in general just feeling better about their overall prospects and career prospects,” Swift said. “They are more likely not to take the first job offer and are more likely to turn down interviews with certain companies if they feel those companies don’t have a positive reputation.”

What’s more, Swift said, even candidates with spotty job histories or education attainment are now more confident.

“It’s now a better time than ever to be an imperfect candidate,” he said. “Employers are now taking chances in hiring these imperfect candidates, those with maybe only two-thirds of the skill-sets necessary for the job in question, as opposed to 90 percent of the necessary skill sets they were looking for a couple years ago.”

That trend was borne out in the survey. Those residents with only a high school education registered the largest increase in sentiment (16 percent), with smaller gains for those with at least some college or post-graduate education.

Shelton cited another factor that could be boosting confidence among some residents: the continual hikes in the minimum wage at the local and state levels. He noted that the biggest spike in sentiment was amongst households in the $35,000 to $50,000 income bracket, which is the typical bracket for households holding down two minimum wage jobs.

But Shelton cautioned against reading too much into the minimum wage impact, saying the wage hikes also could result in some workers losing their jobs or seeing their hours cut.

Drop in negativity?

Also contributing to the rise in local consumer sentiment was the decline in some factors that had hindered confidence in previous quarters, Shelton said. The turmoil in the stock market that dominated the first quarter subsided during the second quarter, and the local inflation rate appeared to peak in May with gasoline prices starting to come back down by late June.

“These factors, combined with somewhat of a lull in adverse statements and policy changes coming from the Trump administration, meant that the underlying strength of the local economy was finally allowed to shine through,” Shelton said.

But, he noted, shortly after the survey period, talk of trade tariffs rose.

The tariff talk, Shelton said, has a dual effect on local perceptions, sparking concerns about the potential for higher prices for consumer goods as well as worries of a slowdown in traffic at the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, both major economic engines for the region.

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