In a last glimpse of the pre-coronavirus economy in Los Angeles County, the unemployment rate held steady at 4.3% in February as employers on net added more than 41,000 jobs to their payrolls, according to state figures released March 27.
The county’s February unemployment rate was at its lowest point in more than 40 years. But with more than 186,000 unemployment claims filed in California in the last week alone – nearly four times the weekly average over the past three years – the rate likely won’t be anywhere near that low again for some time.
In fact, the February employment report from the state Employment Development Department carried this unprecedented warning: “The federal survey data used to develop this February 2020 California labor market statistics precedes – and therefore doesn’t reflect – any economic impacts being experienced now due to the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) in California.”
February employment statistics painted a rosy picture of a Los Angeles County economy chugging along at full steam. They showed a record-high 4.95 million county residents working out of a total labor force of 5.2 million. The number of Angelenos who filed for unemployment in February was 224,000, near the lowest point of the most recent economic cycle.
The picture was just as bright on the payroll jobs front in February. County employers added 41,000 payroll jobs to reach 4.63 million, just short of the record 4.65 million recorded in November. Adjusting for typical seasonal variations, the net addition was about 13,000 jobs.
The motion picture/sound recording industry was the biggest net payroll jobs gainer for February, adding 12,300 jobs. Education employment – both in the private and public sectors – grew by 12,000 while professional/business services added 6,800 jobs and leisure/hospitality gained 6,400 jobs.
Again, these figures were before the government-ordered shutdowns of the education and the leisure/hospitality sectors in mid-March to control the spread of the coronavirus.
The retail sector was a weak spot in February, shedding nearly 6,000 jobs from January levels – the only sector to post substantial job losses.
For the 12 months ending in February, total payroll employment in L.A. County grew by 83,500, or 1.8% – probably the last time for the next several months the county will see such substantial year-over-year job gains.
Leading the way was health care/social assistance with a gain of 17,500 jobs, followed by professional/scientific/technical services (up 11,500 jobs), and construction and government (both up 8,900 jobs).
Manufacturing was the only sector to record a decline in jobs; it shed a net 2,900 in all, with a loss of 3,100 jobs in the apparel industry alone.
Healthcare/biomed, energy, engineering/construction and infrastructure reporter Howard Fine can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @howardafine.