L.A. County’s unemployment rate in January remained at 4.3% despite heavy seasonal job losses, according to state figures released March 13.

The state Employment Development Department reported the unemployment rate remained unchanged from its revised December estimate as 17,000 more Angelenos entered the workforce and the number of residents reporting they were employed also rose by 17,000 to nearly 4.95 million. The rate has hovered in the 4.3% to 4.4% range for five of the past six months, indicating an economy near full employment as of January.

The county’s unemployment rate was higher that the statewide average of 3.9% for January and the national average of 3.6% for that month.

All these figures are prior to any layoffs that have resulted from the global coronavirus threat; as those layoffs mount, the unemployment rate both in Los Angeles County and nationwide is likely to rise.

The steady January unemployment rate came in spite of a large seasonal drop from December of 64,000 payroll jobs in Los Angeles County to 4.59 million. Large drops in payroll jobs are typical for January as retailers and other establishments let go of their holiday season hires. The state takes this into account in also releasing a seasonally adjusted countywide payroll jobs figure; in January, the adjusted figure showed a gain of more than 10,000, to 4.61 million, meaning the drop in jobs was less than in previous years.

The EDD reported payroll job losses in 10 of the county’s 11 major sectors, led by retail trade, with a drop of 20,000. Professional/business services had the next largest drop of 9,600 jobs, followed by the government sector (down 7,500 jobs) and accommodation/food services (down 6,300 jobs).

The only sector to post a net gain in jobs was motion picture/sound recording, which rose by 5,000 jobs.

Between January 2018 and January 2019, the county gained 80,000 payroll jobs for a growth rate of 1.8%, well above the typical 1% growth range seen in the past couple years.

With the release of the January payroll figures came annual revisions to past jobs data from the EDD and the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. Using those revisions, the gain in jobs during calendar year 2019 was about 37,500, just more than half of the original gain of 68,000 jobs reported in January.

Looking at the revised data in more detail, payroll jobs totals were revised upwards for seven of the 12 months of 2019 and downward for the remaining five months. The net revision for all 12 months was about 25,000 jobs, meaning that the county had throughout the year about 25,000 more jobs than initially reported.

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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