L.A. County’s unemployment rate held steady at 4.6 percent in October even as the county added more than 43,000 jobs to reach a record high employment level, according to state figures released Nov. 16.

With the unemployment rate remaining unchanged in October, the rate has now hovered in the mid-4 percent range for most of the last 15 months, a sign that the county is at or near full employment. The rate in October of last year was 4.5 percent.

Also, the gaps between unemployment rates in Los Angeles County and the rest of the state and nation, which had nearly vanished over much of the past year, have now widened again: the statewide unemployment rate was 4.1 percent in October and the national rate was 3.7 percent.

In October, extrapolating from a monthly household survey, the state Employment Development Department reported roughly 5,000 more people joined the labor force, bringing the total to 5,159,000. With more people looking for work, the number of unemployed also increased by 3,000 to 240,000. Meanwhile, the number of Los Angeles County residents employed increased by 2,000 to 4,919,000.

The October unemployment rates for the county’s two largest cities – Los Angeles and Long Beach – fell slightly from their September levels. Los Angeles’ rate fell to 4.7 percent from 4.8 percent, while Long Beach fell to 4.8 percent from 5.0 percent.

Meanwhile, L.A. County employers added 43,800 jobs in October to reach a new record high of 4,544,300 payroll jobs, about 25,000 more jobs than the previous peak last December. The gain was more modest when the EDD adjusted for seasonal factors as the number of payroll jobs under that measurement rose 7,000 to another record of 4,520,000.

The increase of nearly 44,000 in the unadjusted payroll measurement was spread over several sectors, led by government (up 11,700 jobs), followed by professional/business services (up 10,600) and private sector education services (up 5,600).

Manufacturing was the only sector to post a significant decline of 2,800 jobs.

Between October 2017 and October 2018, Los Angeles County gained 58,000 payroll jobs, an increase of 1.3 percent. That year-over-year growth rate is lower than the rate of nearly 2 percent common a year or two ago, another sign that local employment is close to topping out.

The leisure/hospitality sector gained the most jobs over the past 12 months, up 24,700; nearly half that gain came in restaurant employment. Professional/business services added 22,100 jobs, followed by health care/social assistance, which gained 13,000 jobs over the past year.

Despite the gains in October, local government payrolls shrank over the past 12 months, shedding 2,700 jobs, followed by losses of roughly 2,400 jobs in both wholesale and retail trade.

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

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