L.A. County’s unemployment rate in February was 4.5 percent, unchanged from January amid broad-based job gains for the month, according to state figures released March 23.

The unemployment rate was below the 4.9 percent level of a year ago, the state Employment Development Department reported. But it was higher than the statewide average of 4.3 percent and the national average of 4.1 percent.

The rate stayed steady as a slight drop of 2,000 employment positions among county residents was offset by a slight drop of 2,000 in the labor force to 5,143,000.

L.A. County’s two largest cities, Los Angeles and Long Beach, reported unemployment rates of 4.5 percent and 4.6 percent respectively. The city with the lowest unemployment rate was Palos Verdes Estates at 1 percent, while the city with the highest rate was Lancaster at 6.7 percent. (Rates in some unincorporated communities were as high as 8.4 percent.)

Meanwhile, the county reported a net addition of nearly 24,000 jobs to reach 4,461,000 non-farm payroll positions in February, an increase of 0.5 percent from January. Nine of the 11 broad industry sectors reported job gains over the month, led by the entertainment sector (motion picture and sound recording), which added a net 10,500 jobs. Other gainers included leisure/hospitality (up 9,000 jobs) and construction (up 4,000).

Many of the job gains in February were seasonal and showed a recovery from steep falloffs in January. After adjusting for these seasonal factors, the EDD reported a net drop of 2,800 jobs, or less than 0.1 percent.

The only sector to post major job losses in February was trade/transportation/utilities, down a net 13,500 jobs. The lion’s share of that drop was in retail stores, which shed 10,400 jobs as the “retail apocalypse” continued to sweep through the sector.

As for the closely watched year-over-year payroll jobs numbers, the county added a net 61,500 jobs between February 2017 and last month, for a growth rate of 1.4 percent. Leisure/hospitality led the way, adding 26,000 jobs, almost evenly split between accommodation/food services and arts/entertainment/recreation.

Other year-over-year job gainers included: healthcare/social assistance (up 16,700), business services (up 12,800) and trade/transportation/utilities (up 9,200). The information sector, which includes motion picture/sound recording, posted the largest year-over-year job drop, shedding a net 15,700 jobs.

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

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