L.A. County’s unemployment rate rose to 4.8 percent in December from 4.7 percent in November as more people entered the workforce looking for work, according to state figures released Jan. 18.

According to the state Employment Development Department, 10,000 more people entered the workforce in December, bringing the total workforce to nearly 5.18 million, a record high. But the number of Los Angeles County residents surveyed who reported they were working rose by only 6,000, to 4.93 million. That gap of 4,000 is what fueled the rise in the unemployment rate to the highest level in over a year.

Nonetheless, any unemployment rate under 5 percent remains low by historical standards and is generally considered near full employment.

But L.A.’s rising unemployment rate has widened the gap with the rest of the state and nation. The statewide unemployment rate was 4.2 percent in December and the national rate was 3.9 percent.

The rise in the unemployment rate came despite a slight increase of 7,300 payroll jobs in Los Angeles County to reach a record 4,577,300. Adjusting for seasonal factors such as retail holiday hiring, the gain was about 3,000 jobs.

Healthcare/social service sector jobs led the way, gaining a net 4,700 jobs in December. Transportation/warehousing was next, up 3,600, as companies pushed through shipments in advance of potential trade tariffs. Retail outlets added a net 3,400 jobs due to a last-minute surge in holiday hiring.

The construction sector suffered the largest drop in payroll jobs of 4,200, due in part to the slowing housing market. The motion picture/sound recording industry, traditionally a volatile sector when it comes to payroll jobs, lost 3,500 jobs in December.

For all of 2018, payroll employment in Los Angeles County saw a net gain of 60,000 jobs, an increase of 1.3 percent. That rate is somewhat slower than in recent years when it has been above 1.5 percent.

Three sectors led the way in payroll job gains over the past year, with each adding a net 16,000 jobs: accommodation/food services; professional/business services and healthcare/social assistance.

Local governments shed the most payroll jobs over the past year, down a net 2,500.

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

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