Business & Real Estate

Unemployment falls in Sacramento, statewide

Hiring continues to help cut the jobless rate in Sacramento and beyond.
Hiring continues to help cut the jobless rate in Sacramento and beyond. Associated Press file

Unemployment continued falling last month, in the Sacramento area and statewide, to its lowest levels since before the economy collapsed.

The Sacramento unemployment rate dropped to 5.6 percent last month, state officials said Friday, down three-tenths of a point from March. That was the lowest unemployment rate in the region since November 2007. The state Employment Development Department said area employers added 2,500 jobs during April.

Unemployment statewide fell to 6.3 percent, down two-tenths of a percent. That was the lowest level since March 2008. Nonfarm employers added 29,500 jobs during the month.

The latest figures show the economy continuing to improve regionally and statewide. A year ago, the unemployment rate was 6.9 percent in Sacramento and 7.8 percent across the state.

“Continued good news,” said Irena Asmundson, chief economist at the state Department of Finance.

She said the numbers were “very reassuring” in light of recent data showing the national economy grew at a fairly anemic annualized rate of 0.2 percent in the first three months of the year. Experts blamed harsh winter weather on the East Coast and an unusually strong U.S. dollar compared with foreign currencies, which hurt exports of American-made goods.

“We were worried, ‘Oh, is there a slowdown starting?’ ” Asmundson said. With spring arriving and the dollar’s strength abating, Asmundson said the national numbers should start to improve.

In Sacramento, the public sector did much of the hiring in April; local governments added 1,100 jobs. Farm employment rose by 1,000.

Construction employment fell by 1,100 jobs, an unusual development in a month when normally the industry adds 500 jobs, said EDD labor market consultant Liz Bosley.

Experts said the reported drop in construction employment wasn’t worrisome and was likely due to a problem in gathering the data.

“Sometimes you get a monthly fluke,” said economist Jeff Michael of the University of the Pacific. He said the Sacramento construction market has been growing more slowly than expected, but it’s very unlikely that it suffered an outright reversal in April.

Overall, he said the region’s economy is improving, although it still isn’t matching growth rates enjoyed on California’s coast, where high-tech employment is booming.

Statewide, 10 of the 11 major sectors of the economy added jobs during the month, led by the broad category of professional and business services (119,500 jobs). Only the mining and logging sector posted job declines in April.

California has added 457,300 jobs in the past year, a growth rate of 2.9 percent. Some 20,300 Sacramentans have found work in the past year, an increase of 2.3 percent.