Business & Real Estate

California saw ‘striking’ job gains in November

Recovering from the Great Recession has been slow and uncertain for many Californians, especially in the Central Valley. But a state labor report released Friday provided evidence that the Sacramento region is now adding higher-paying jobs.

“It’s a solid and steady recovery,” said Jeffrey Michael, head of the Business Forecasting Center at the University of the Pacific in Sacramento.

California added 90,100 jobs in November, with a net gain of 5,500 jobs in the four-county Sacramento region, the state Employment Development Department reported. The state recently has been averaging about 25,000 new jobs a month.

It was the second-highest monthly job growth in California since 1990.

Many of the jobs created in November were in holiday retail sales, though hiring grew in nearly every employment category, including technology, health care and construction.

“About 90,000 jobs gained in a month at the state level is an extremely strong month,” Michael said. “The gains are broadly based across the private sector in California. You see strengths across the board and across regions.”

The science and technology sector “has been the growth driver for the whole state of California,” Michael said. “It’s good to see Sacramento joining in that again.”

The four-county Sacramento region added 1,000 jobs in professional scientific and technical services from October to November for a total of 55,700 positions. It added 4,000 jobs in the same sector from November 2013 to November 2014 – a nearly 8 percent gain, EDD reported.

Health care jobs increased by 3 percent from November to November in Sacramento, Placer, El Dorado and Yolo counties. The number of jobs in the health care industry held steady from October to November at 120,300 across the region.

An EDD analysis of help-wanted ads showed the largest number in November were for health care workers, especially registered nurses. The employers that posted the most job announcements in the Sacramento region in November were Dignity Health (652 ads), Kaiser Permanente (502) and Sutter Health (371).

Registered nurses were in high demand, with 1,656 ads posted. Truck drivers were a distant second with 673 ads, the EDD said.

In all, the region added more than 7,000 professional and business services jobs in November compared with the same month a year before. That category includes lawyers, accountants and engineers, said George Marley, the EDD’s Sacramento-area specialist.

Though the region added jobs, the unemployment rate – which measures the number of jobless people actively seeking work – ticked up from October, when it was 6.6 percent, to November, when it hit 6.7 percent.

That compares with a statewide unemployment rate of 7.2 percent – the second-highest in the nation, just below Mississippi – and a national jobless rate of 5.5 percent.

The fact that more people are entering the workforce in hopes of finding employment is a positive sign, experts said. During the depths of the recession, many simply gave up looking for work and were not counted among the unemployed.

The percentage of so-called “discouraged” workers has dropped steadily in the past year, EDD reported.

“We’re seeing more participation in the labor force,” Michael said. “That means we get slower declines in the unemployment rate, but it’s actually a sign of an improving labor market and improving economy.”

Much of the job growth was seasonal, as retailers beefed up their holiday staffing more than they have in recent years. The Sacramento region, for instance, added 5,500 retail jobs, compared with an average of 3,500 such seasonal workers hired each year since 2004.

That’s one reason the state probably won’t keep adding 90,000 jobs per month.

“What you’re dealing with today is a much better Christmas than we’ve seen in the past. That’s why these numbers are looking so positive,” said Christopher Thornberg, founding partner of Beacon Economics in Los Angeles.

Yet job growth is “pretty good across the board,” including in construction, manufacturing and hotels and restaurants, Thornberg said.

Other experts predicted steady job gains will continue into the new year.

“This is not a mirage,” said Michael Bernick, a San Francisco employment attorney and former executive director of the Employment Development Department. “The job market is better than it was in any of the past five years.”

Not all is rosy. An increasing number of jobs are part time or temporary, fueling a sense of economic insecurity, Bernick said.

Still, he called Friday’s report “striking.”

“We’re not going to continue to see 90,000 jobs per month. It’s going to go down,” Bernick said. “But it does suggest we may continue to see strong job growth and sustained job growth in the first half of 2015.”

Call The Bee’s Hudson Sangree, (916) 321-1191.