Business & Real Estate

California jobless rate stays at record low, but some red flags seen

This is getting monotonous.

California’s unemployment rate remained at a record-low 4.3 percent in March, according to the state Employment Development Department.

That record rate was first reported in February, breaking the previous record low of 4.4 percent set in January. The state noted that the all-time mark is based on the current record-keeping format that dates back to 1976.

EDD said Friday that the record low was repeated even though California employers shed 7,200 payroll jobs last month. Jobless rates are based on multiple variables that can affect percentages, including the number of Californians actively seeking employment in a given month.

Year over year, California saw a gain of 321,000 jobs, a nearly 2 percent gain. EDD said more than 17 million Golden State residents were drawing paychecks in March.

The number of unemployed Californians was 827,000 in March – down by 16,000 over the month and down by 142,000 compared with March of last year.

Despite the low jobless rate, there were signs of sluggishness, and experts saw some red flags amid the record-setting numbers.

For example, only three of California’s 11 industry sectors added a combined 6,700 jobs in March. Educational and health services led the way with a February-to-March gain of 4,600 jobs.

Of the eight statewide industry sectors that saw monthly decreases last month, general services saw the most losses (4,600), followed by construction with a loss of 4,400 positions.

Economist Sung Won Sohn of California State University, Channel Islands, noted that “California’s job market may have gone through an inflection point. The economy is at full employment and having difficulty finding workers from Silicon Valley to Southern California.

“The civilian labor force, which had been rising in previous months responding to the news that there are good jobs to be had at higher wages, fell by 13,200 in March.”

Sohn added that while the unemployment rate in Bay Area counties has been hovering around 3 percent, a “slowdown in information services is attributable to the lack of skilled people in technology and the high cost of living, especially housing in the Bay Area and Southern California.”

Cara Welch, EDD labor market consultant, said combined employment in Sacramento, El Dorado, Placer and Yolo counties increased by 600 between February and March, to 985,900.

The unemployment rate in the Sacramento region was 3.9 percent in March, down from a revised 4.1 percent in February. In November, region-wide unemployment was reported at 3.7 percent, which EDD said was the lowest rate in greater Sacramento since at least 1990.

In March, the jobless rate in Sacramento County was 3.9 percent. The unemployment rate was 3.8 percent in El Dorado County, 3.2 percent in Placer County and 4.8 percent in Yolo County.