The job market continued to nudge forward in California and Sacramento last month, reducing the region’s unemployment rate slightly while leaving the statewide rate unchanged.
Unemployment in Sacramento fell a tenth of a point in March, to 8.1 percent, amid an unusually strong month of job growth, the Employment Development Department said Friday. California’s reported job growth was less stellar, keeping the unemployment rate steady at 8.1 percent.
At the statewide level, the EDD said 11,800 jobs were created last month, a relatively paltry number. That was way down from the 62,100 jobs created in February. But Los Angeles economist Chris Thornberg said the month-to-month fluctuations, which are often subject to statistical glitches, are less important than the broader trends, which show continued improvement.
“The economy is ticking forward nicely,” said Thornberg, head of a consulting firm called Beacon Economics.
Thornberg said a host of economic statistics, including exports and taxable sales, are looking better.
For instance, California’s gasoline usage improved 1.6 percent in the final three months of 2013, Board of Equalization member George Runner announced Friday. That was the biggest jump since 2004. Diesel fuel consumption grew 6.8 percent.
Irena Asmundson, chief economist at the state Department of Finance, said it’s also noteworthy that the labor force has grown three months in a row. That implies “greater confidence” among job seekers, she said, although the expiration of long-term unemployment benefits also probably played a role.
The four-county Sacramento region added 9,300 jobs during March, with practically every major sector of the economy showing growth.
“Healthy gains,” said George Marley, an EDD labor market consultant. “The number really jumped out at me.”
It was the single strongest month of job gains in the region since October 2012, he said.
March is typically a month in which the economy gains strength, but Marley said this represented three times the average job growth. The leisure and hospitality sector grew the fastest, adding 3,200 jobs. The late-winter snow in the Sierra may have led to hiring at the area’s ski resorts, Marley said.
In the past year, the region has added 16,100 jobs, a gain of 1.9 percent. That’s below the statewide growth rate of 2.2 percent.
Call The Bee’s Dale Kasler, (916) 321-1066. Follow him on Twitter @dakasler.