Business & Real Estate

California’s unemployment rate dips to 4.9 percent

California’s jobless rate dipped back below 5 percent in October, continuing an employment expansion that one expert said was reaching epic proportions.

With 31,700 jobs added to Golden State payrolls last month, the unemployment rate was 4.9 percent, down from 5.1 percent in September.

The state Employment Development Department said Friday that non-farm payroll employment statewide totaled 16,860,300 in October. Year-over-year, there was an overall gain of 256,800 jobs, a 1.5 percent increase.

EDD said the number of unemployed Californians last month was 952,000, down 35,000 from September and a decline of 63,000 from October last year.

EDD said six of California’s 11 major industry sectors added a combined 35,700 jobs in October, with the leisure and hospitality segment leading the way with a gain of 15,300. The mining/logging sector remained unchanged.

Four industry sectors reported job declines month-to-month, down a total of 4,000 jobs. The general services sector lost 1,900 jobs in October.

Statewide, the jobless rate fell back to the range of lows seen in the late spring and summer months this year. Unemployment was 4.8 percent in July, and it stood at an all-time record-tying low of 4.7 percent in both May and June.

EDD’s report noted that California has gained nearly 2.7 million jobs since economic expansion began in February 2010.

Michael Bernick, a labor lawyer in San Francisco and a former EDD director, said that the state’s current job-filling hot streak rivaled the best seen over a period of more than 50 years.

“We’re now up to 91 months of employment expansion in California,” he said. “How long can this continue? We’re now bumping against the longest employment expansions in California since World War II: the employment expansions of 92 months in the early 1990s and 113 months in the 1960s.”

Bernick noted that “our county unemployment rates are at near-historic lows since the 1950s.”

Bernick cited the exceptionally low October jobless rates reported for the counties of San Francisco (2.7 percent), San Mateo (2.5 percent), Alameda (3.4 percent), Orange (3.3 percent) and San Diego (3.7 percent.), adding, “Even counties that traditionally have double-digit unemployment are in single digits, such as Fresno at 7.8 percent and Kern at 7.5 percent.”

Sacramento County’s preliminary, non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 4.3 percent in October, with 30,000 unemployed.

Mark Glover: 916-321-1184, @markhglover