L.A. County’s unemployment rate edged up to 4.6 percent in September even as the county recorded sizable job gains in the education sector, according to state figures released Oct. 19.

The state Employment Development Department reported the unemployment rate rose from 4.5 percent, where it had been for the previous three months. Extrapolating from a monthly household survey, the EDD reported roughly 3,000 more people joined the labor force in September, bringing the total to 5,154,000. With more people looking for work, the number of unemployed also increased by 3,000 to 236,000. Meanwhile, the number of Los Angeles County residents employed decreased by 1,000 to 4,917,000.

For the first time in recent history, September’s 4.6 percent unemployment rate exceeded the previous year’s rate of 4.5 percent, although both figures are close to the modern record low of 4.3 percent. This is another sign that the county is at or near full employment.

Also, the gap between unemployment rates in Los Angeles County and the rest of the state and nation widened significantly in September; the statewide unemployment rate was 4.1 percent and the national rate was 3.7 percent.

The September unemployment rates for the county’s two largest cities – Los Angeles and Long Beach – fell slightly from their August levels. Los Angeles’ rate fell to 4.8 percent from 5.1 percent, while Long Beach fell to 5.0 percent from 5.4 percent.

Meanwhile, L.A. County employers added 21,600 jobs in September to reach 4,501,700, topping the 4.5 million mark for the first time since last December.

All of this increase and then some came from the education sector as the new academic year began at most educational institutions. Local government education payrolls rose by the same 21,600 jobs, while private educational institutions added 8,600 jobs to their payrolls.

The EDD adjusts for these seasonal variations; the September adjusted payroll figure was actually down by 400 jobs to 4,513,400, essentially flat compared to August.

The other big jobs gainer in September was administrative/support and waste services, which rose by 5,100.

The retail trade sector lost the most jobs, down 2,500 in September, followed by professional/scientific/technical services, down 1,800 jobs.

Between September 2017 and September 2018, Los Angeles County gained 52,100 payroll jobs, an increase of 1.2 percent. That year-over-year growth rate has been trending down in recent months from near 2 percent a year 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 26,500, split almost evenly between accommodation/food services and arts/entertainment/recreation. The healthcare/social assistance sector gained 13,500 jobs, followed by administrative/support/waste services with 9,800 jobs.

Local government payrolls shrank over the past 12 months, shedding 2,700 jobs, followed by wholesale trade (down 2,000) and retail trade (down 1,900).

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

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