L.A. County’s unemployment rate held steady in November at 4.4% for the third straight month, according to state figures released Dec. 20.

Data from the state Employment Development Department shows the unemployment rate has hovered in the mid-4% range for most of 2019 after hitting a record low of 4.2% early in the year — all indicative of a local job market at or near full employment. In November 2018, the rate was 4.7%.

The county’s 4.4% unemployment rate reflected a surge in holiday-related hiring that was offset by more people entering the workforce looking for work.

L.A. County's rate was slightly higher than the 3.9% statewide average for November and was nearly a full percentage point above the national average of 3.5%.

The unemployment rate, which is based on a monthly household survey, didn’t budge because the number of holiday-related retail job openings, roughly 17,500, was offset by an increase of 18,000 people entering the county’s labor force. The total workforce stood at 5.14 million in November; 4.91 million of those reported that they had jobs.

The EDD also reported that the number of people on employer payrolls in L.A. County shot up by 38,500 in November to 4.66 million. That follows a gain of 38,000 jobs in October.

Besides the aforementioned holiday retail hiring surge, other big gainers included motion picture/sound recording (up 8,600), government (up 5,900) and professional/business services (up 4,700). The motion picture/sound recording gain reversed a couple months of significant declines in that sector.

The sectors that declined showed much smaller drops, led by arts/entertainment/recreation (down 2,500) and construction (down 1,600).

The state EDD takes into account seasonal variations in payroll employment such as increases in holiday retail hiring by releasing a seasonally adjusted figure that’s closely watched by economists. In November, the adjusted figure showed a gain of 15,000.

For the 12-month period ending in November, employers added 81,900 jobs to their payrolls for a growth rate of 1.8% from November of last year. This closely watched figure is well above the year-over-year job growth rates recorded in previous months, which have typically been around 1%.

If this growth rate is sustained over the next couple months, it will be a sign that the economy has kicked up to a very robust level.

The health care/social assistance sector gained the most jobs during the 12 months ending in November, adding a net 31,700 positions. Professional/business services added 14,700 jobs, followed closely by leisure/hospitality (up 14,000). The construction sector added a net 7,200 jobs.

No sector lost a significant number of jobs over the past 12 months.

Healthcare/biomed, energy, engineering/construction and infrastructure reporter Howard Fine can be reached at hfine@labusinessjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter @howardafine.

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