Unemployment in L.A. County ticked down slightly in February to 4.6 percent, the combined effect of a modest gain in jobs and a few thousand workers leaving the labor force.

The state Employment Development Department reported March 22 that the unemployment rate for Los Angeles County fell from 4.7 percent in January, where it had been holding steady for three months. The rate has hovered between 4.6 percent and 4.7 percent for much of the past year, indicating an economy near full employment.

The county’s 4.6 percent unemployment rate remained higher than the statewide average of 4.2 percent and the national average of 3.8 percent.

L.A. County posted a seasonal rebound in jobs, gaining a net 33,600 jobs to reach 4.52 million. That followed a drop of 92,000 payroll jobs in January.

The county’s labor force also shrank overall in February by 5,000 to 5.16 million. That ran counter to national and statewide trends that have seen more people entering the labor force in search of higher paying jobs.

The professional and businesses services sector led February’s gain in L.A. County, with a net increase of 12,000 jobs—roughly one-third of which was due to the annual hiring blitz for accountants and bookkeepers ahead of tax deadlines. The other large seasonal gain was in private education, which added a net 7,500 jobs as teachers and other workers returned from winter break.

The state takes these and other seasonal trends into account in also releasing a seasonally adjusted countywide payroll jobs figure; in February, this adjusted figure showed a net gain of 4,100 jobs to just over 4.53 million.

Transportation, warehousing and utilities also added a net 9,500 jobs, while leisure and hospitality businesses gained 6,700 jobs.

Over the past year, the county has seen a loss of 17,200 jobs in the entertainment industry category of motion picture and sound recording. That’s expected to worsen in the coming months as the just-completed merger between Burbank-based Walt Disney Co. and New York-based 21st Century Fox Corp. could result in roughly 3,000 job cuts in the county.

Compared to February of last year, payroll jobs grew 0.7 percent—the same year-over-year growth rate as January but only roughly half the rate at which jobs were growing two years ago.

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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