Business & Real Estate

California unemployment falls amid strong job growth

Gov. Jerry Brown discusses his revised budget and economic forecasts at the Capitol last Friday.
Gov. Jerry Brown discusses his revised budget and economic forecasts at the Capitol last Friday.

A week after Gov. Jerry Brown warned of a possible slowdown in California’s economy, state officials reported Friday that unemployment continued falling in April as job growth perked up.

The unemployment rate fell to 5.3 percent, down a tenth of a point from the month before, the Employment Development Department said. It was the lowest statewide unemployment rate since June 2007.

Job growth statewide in April was a robust 59,600, up sharply from the 5,200 jobs added in March. The numbers suggest California is “on track for another good year in 2016,” said economist Stephen Levy of the Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy, in a note to reporters.

The jobs report came exactly a week after Brown, unveiling his revised budget blueprint, urged the Legislature to rein in spending after April income tax revenue came in about $1.2 billion below expectations. Although his revised budget projects that the economy will continue to expand at least through June 2017, the governor warned Californians that a slowdown could be coming.

“Like everything else, things don’t last forever,” he said last week. “The surging tide of revenue is beginning to turn.”

California’s income tax revenue is heavily dependent on capital gains, which can fluctuate dramatically with performance of the stock market. The market went through choppy waters earlier this year, a possible reason why the April tax revenue fell short.

Economist Sung Won Sohn, of California State University’s Channel Islands campus, said the latest jobs figures are “sterling” but there are some weak spots developing in the California economy. In a note to reporters, Sohn said lackluster growth on the national level and other factors are cooling off the Bay Area’s tech sector, one of the state’s most powerful economic engines.

However, for the time being unemployment rates are continuing to fall in the Bay Area.

Statewide, the EDD said 10 broad economic sectors added jobs in April, led by the professional and business services segment. Only one category of the job market shrank in April.

Over the past year, California has added 450,200 jobs, a growth rate of 2.8 percent.

Sacramento’s unemployment rate fell to 5.1 percent last month, a drop of three-tenths of a point. That’s the lowest since June 2007, when it was 5.2 percent.

The region added 1,600 jobs during the month, led by gains in construction, and professional and business services. For the past year, the region has added 20,300 jobs, an increase of 2.2 percent.

Dale Kasler: 916-321-1066, @dakasler