California's jobless rate holds steady at 9.8% -- for third straight month

Published: Wednesday, Mar. 20, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 6B
Last Modified: Thursday, Mar. 21, 2013 - 8:42 am

Unemployment in California remains stalled at 9.8 percent, and hiring turned lackluster as 2013 dawned.

On the upside, though, 2012 turned out to be a much stronger year for the job market than previously reported.

The Employment Development Department said Tuesday that only 1,700 new jobs were created in California in January. That left the unemployment rate unchanged at 9.8 percent for the third straight month.

There was no obvious explanation for the January numbers. Dennis Meyers, principal economist at the state Department of Finance, said it's possible the economy hit a weak patch because of the increase in federal payroll taxes, which took effect Jan. 1.

Another problem was the "notoriously fickle" information industry, which reported a loss of 18,000 jobs during January, he said. That sector includes publishing, movie production and broadcasting.

The stall left California tied with Rhode Island for the nation's highest unemployment rate.

While the January numbers were sobering, the annual revision of the prior year's data was cause for some celebration. It turned up an additional 101,500 jobs for 2012 that hadn't been counted previously.

In all, the EDD said, 327,400 jobs were created across California last year, a fairly strong 2.3 percent growth rate.

Meyers said upward revisions are common when the economy is improving. The monthly surveys are "slow to pick up new companies," he said.

The 2.3 percent growth is "definitely what you want to see in a recovery," he said.

Still, the state has recovered just a little more than half of the roughly 1.6 million jobs lost during the recession.

"The hole was so deep," Meyers said.

The Tuesday release of unemployment numbers was unusual. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the original source of the figures, released the numbers three days ahead of schedule.

Most of the local unemployment rates will come out Friday. Sacramento's rate in December was 9.8 percent.

Only one local unemployment rate in California was released – Los Angeles County, where the rate rose a tenth of a point to 10.4 percent.

Call The Bee's Dale Kasler, (916) 321-1066. Follow him on Twitter @dakasler.

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