Business & Real Estate

Unemployment falls to 7 percent in Sacramento; steady at 7.4 percent statewide

Sacramento’s unemployment rate fell to 7 percent last month, a drop of four-tenths of a point, while California’s unemployment rate held steady at 7.4 percent.

The monthly unemployment statistics released Friday by the California Employment Development Department suggest the regional and statewide economies continue their slow but steady climb.

Across the state, employers added 44,200 jobs during August. That’s “a pretty solid number,” said Irena Asmundson, chief economist at the state Department of Finance.

She said it was puzzling that the state’s unemployment rate hasn’t budged from 7.4 percent for three straight months, despite consistently healthy job growth.

On the other hand, she was pleased that the hike in the statewide minimum wage didn’t stop employers from hiring. The rate rose $1 an hour, to $9, effective July 1.

“The strong job growth was reassuring in light of the rise of the minimum wage,” Asmundson said.

In the four-county Sacramento region, the EDD said payrolls actually shrank by 1,100 jobs. But EDD labor market consultant George Marley said he believes there were statistical problems with the latest count, which may have undercounted the number of jobs in the region. For instance, the data showed construction employment dropping by 1,000 jobs, which Marley said was probably inaccurate in light of the steady improvement in the market.

“They didn’t get a great sample survey for this month” for construction, Marley said. “Construction has been doing much better in 2014.”

Construction employment is 3 percent higher in Sacramento than a year ago, according to the EDD, even with the latest reported decline.

Similarly, construction continues to make gains statewide. “Construction showed the greatest job increase of 13,600 jobs over the month, to reach 676,400 jobs,” said Michael Bernick, a labor lawyer in San Francisco and former EDD director, in an email. “Construction still has a long way to go to reach the 960,000 construction jobs in California in late 2006, but over the past year construction has gained nearly 36,000 jobs and is moving in the right direction.”

In Sacramento, Marley said another sector that’s showing marked improvement is manufacturing. Employment is up 4.6 percent from a year ago, and the food-processing segment of manufacturing has risen 6.4 percent.

In the past year, for instance, food processors from Japan and Norway have rushed to build food-processing and distribution facilities in West Sacramento.

“That’s definitely an industry that’s looking good,” Marley said.

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