Business & Real Estate

California sets a new record for lowest unemployment rate

Riding a wave of seasonal hiring and robust employment in nearly all major industry sectors, California’s unemployment rate plunged to a record low 4.3 percent in December.

The state Employment Development Department said Friday that a robust 52,700 jobs were added to California payrolls last month. The statewide jobless rate was 4.6 percent in November.

EDD said December’s unemployment rate was the lowest since 1976, when it adopted the current record-keeping format. Overall, EDD estimated that nearly 18.5 million were employed statewide last month.

“California had 35.6 percent of all jobs created in the United States in December. California should take a lot of credit for the healthy economic condition in the United States,” said economist Sung Won Sohn of California State University, Channel Islands. “The job gains are pretty much across the board. Essentially, all cylinders are firing.”

Sohn added that “the rosy performance is despite the tightening labor market and the rising cost of living in the Golden State.”

California has gained nearly 2.8 million jobs since the economic expansion began in February 2010. Michael Bernick, a labor lawyer in San Francisco and a former EDD director, said the past four months produced a surge of more than 180,000 jobs.

“The strength of the national economy, now at 4.1 percent unemployment, is a main driver, though California has been outperforming the national economy …,” Bernick said. “The tech economy in the state also continues to be a driver, with unemployment in the Bay Area counties at historic lows – 2.6 percent in Santa Clara, 2.4 percent in San Francisco and 2.1 percent in San Mateo.

“Further, the job growth in the state continues to be across sectors, including construction, which is now at over 839,900 jobs, the highest since 2010, and manufacturing at 1.3 million jobs.”

EDD said Friday that nine of California’s 11 industry sectors saw monthly increases in December, adding a combined 56,900 jobs. The government sector posted the largest increase, with a monthly gain of 10,300 jobs, followed by leisure/hospitality, up 10,100.

Two industry sectors reported monthly declines, with a loss of only 4,200 jobs. Trade, transportation and utilities lost 3,800 jobs; mining and logging fell by 400.

EDD put the Sacramento region’s unemployment rate in December at 3.8 percent, up from a revised 3.7 percent in November, which EDD said at the time was the lowest rate in greater Sacramento since at least 1990.

Cara Welch, EDD labor market consultant, said combined employment in the counties of Sacramento, El Dorado, Placer and Yolo increased by 1,200 between November and December, to 993,100 jobs.

The unemployment rate was 3.6 percent in El Dorado County, 3.1 percent in Placer County and 4.6 percent in Yolo County.

Sacramento County’s jobless rate increased slightly to 3.9 percent last month, according to EDD’s non-seasonally adjusted data. Countywide unemployment was 3.8 percent in November. EDD said December employment throughout Sacramento County totaled 677,100, down 1,000 from November.

December’s numbers wrapped up a record-setting 2017 in California, stretching back to May and June, when reported unemployment of 4.7 percent tied the then-statewide record low. The new record of 4.6 percent was set in November, then shattered last month.

Sohn noted that the “strong holiday shopping season was a big plus,” but added that there are areas of concern: “There are still 12 out of 58 counties in the state with the jobless rate of 8 percent or higher.”

That included a 17.3 percent unemployment rate in Colusa County, 17.9 percent in Imperial County and 10.1 percent in Tulare County, according to EDD.

Mark Glover: 916-321-1184, @markhglover

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