L.A. County’s unemployment rate dipped slightly last month to 4.5%, the combined effect of a modest gain in jobs and several thousand workers leaving the labor force.

The state Employment Development Department reported June 21 that the unemployment rate for Los Angeles County fell from a revised 4.6% in April. The rate has generally hovered between 4.6% and 4.7% for much of the past year, indicating an economy near full employment.

The county’s 4.5% unemployment rate remained higher than the statewide average of 4.2% and the national average of 3.6%.

The unemployment rate, which is based on a monthly household survey, dropped in large part because the county’s labor force shrank in May by about 14,000 to 5.11 million. That has run counter to national trends that have seen more people entering the labor force in search of higher paying jobs.

The payroll job count in Los Angeles County rose by 8,000 in May to 4.56 million, led by a gain of 9,400 jobs in the leisure and hospitality sector in anticipation of the summer tourism and live entertainment season. Other industries posting slight job gains were employment services (up a net 4,600 jobs), construction (up 2,200 jobs) and government (up 1,100 jobs).

The entertainment sector posted the largest net decline of 5,500 payroll jobs, while educational and health services dropped by a net 2,500 jobs as the academic year wound down.

The state also released a countywide payroll jobs figure that adjusts for expected seasonal variations and is therefore closely watched by economists. For May, the county posted a gain of 10,500 jobs when adjusted for seasonal factors.

Compared to May of last year, the county has added nearly 58,000 payroll jobs for a growth rate of 1.3%. That’s a slightly higher year-over-year growth rate than seen in previous months.

The healthcare and social assistance sector was the biggest gainer, adding a net 18,600 jobs. Professional and business services added a net 13,600 jobs over the past year, followed by leisure and hospitality at 12,700 jobs.

The finance and insurance sector was the biggest decliner, losing a net 3,000 jobs over the past year.

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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