Jobs picture brightens in California and Sacramento region

Published: Friday, May. 17, 2013 - 12:09 pm
Last Modified: Friday, May. 17, 2013 - 11:39 pm

California's employment picture improved significantly in April, but the Sacramento area did even better.

The area's unemployment rate plunged to 8.3 percent in April from a revised 9.2 percent in March, a decline that surpassed encouraging statewide numbers, according to state figures released Friday.

The unemployment rate was 8.3 percent in Sacramento County, 8.6 percent in El Dorado County, 7.2 percent in Placer County and 9.4 percent in Yolo County.

In one month's time, total wage and salary employment in the four-county region increased by 3,100 to 837,300 jobs.

Meanwhile, California's unemployment rate dropped a sizable four-tenths of a point in April to 9 percent, the lowest level since November 2008.

The state Employment Development Department said that nonfarm payroll jobs increased by 10,400 last month for a total gain of 756,900 jobs since the recovery began in February 2010.

Nonfarm jobs in California totaled 14.6 million in April, representing a year-over-year increase of 273,100 jobs, or nearly 2 percent.

EDD said the number of people unemployed in California last month totaled 1,673,000, down 76,000 from March and down by 303,000 compared with April last year.

In the Sacramento area, an 1,100-job monthly gain in accommodation and food services more than offset a 300-job loss in arts, entertainment and recreation.

Transportation and utilities added 1,000 jobs from March to April; other services also expanded by 1,000 jobs, the largest monthly increase since May 2002.

Steve Levy with the Palo Alto-based Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy said "the unemployment story is good, but unemployment usually is down between March and April, so part of that is the normal seasonal change."

Levy said he was concerned about a year-over-year decline of 2,000 government jobs in the Sacramento area.

"The government sector is still a drag, and that's the major reason that (the area) has not fully participated in the recovery. That's such an important part of the economy there."

Looking at the statewide numbers, Levy said "the standout in this month's report is the large increase in construction jobs, which are now up by 45,000 or 7.7, percent, over the past 12 months.

Construction job gains (the state added 7,400 from March to April) also caught the eye of Christopher Thornberg, a founding partner of Beacon Economics.

"(Building) permits are slowly starting to grow, and a lot of it is construction occurring on previously approved lots, say 2006, before the recession," he said. "Construction could be moving a lot faster, but frankly, the time lag to get a permit in California is just hideous."

Overall, Thornberg characterized the latest numbers as positive: "What you see here is an economy that is picking up steam. ... This also discounts the notion that California is drying up in the wind because it's business-unfriendly.

"Sure, there are still some problems, but this is all good stuff."

Besides construction, California added jobs in April in manufacturing; trade, transportation and utilities; financial activities; educational and health services; leisure and hospitality; and other services.

At the same time, however, the sectors of information, professional/business services and government shed workers. Professional/business services posted the largest decrease over the month, down 6,000 jobs.

California's unemployment percentage remains above the national rate of 7.5 percent and is the fourth-highest among the states, behind Nevada (9.6 percent), Illinois (9.3 percent) and Mississippi (9.1 percent).

Call The Bee's Mark Glover, (916) 321-1184.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

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