Los Angeles Business Journal

County Jobless Rate Dips to 11 Percent

By Howard Fine Originally published September 21, 2012 at 2:32 p.m., updated September 21, 2012 at 10:47 a.m.

L.A. County continued its summer jobs stall in August as the county lost about 10,000 jobs due in large part to seasonal cuts in education, according to state figures released Friday.

The unemployment rate dipped to 11 percent in August from 11.2 percent in July, according to the state Employment Development Department figures. But the drop was primarily because the labor pool shrank as more people stopped looking for work.

The county’s unemployment rate is still well below the 12.5 percent level of a year ago. But it remained slightly above the statewide August average of 10.6 percent and was almost three percentage points above the national average of 8.1 percent.

Locally, the county’s two largest cities, Los Angeles and Long Beach, posted unemployment rates of 12.3 percent; however, unlike the countywide figure, those rates are unadjusted for seasonal factors such as summer school closures.

The surge in seasonal layoffs among schoolteachers accounted for all of the August drop in payroll jobs and then some, dropping by 18,000. Another 1,000 jobs were lost in the transportation and warehousing sector as somewhat lower than expected volumes of goods moved through the ports and regional distribution network.

Unlike last month when 44,000 jobs were lost, in August several sectors posted job gains to partly offset the steep drop in teaching positions. The local entertainment sector added 6,000 jobs in motion picture and sound recording, while business and professional services added about 3,700 jobs.

“We’re getting a lot of job openings at local entertainment firms – it’s really hot now,” said Alexandra Watson, metro market manager in Los Angeles for Robert Half International, a San Ramon staffing company. “We’re seeing companies adding 20, 30 or even 60 staff members at once, both in entertainment and at companies on L.A.’s Silicon Beach.”

However, Watson said, job openings have been fewer this summer among local manufacturing and warehousing firms and in the government sector.

Unlike the unemployment figures, which are derived from a household survey, the payroll jobs come from a sampling of local employer payroll filings with the state.

Despite the August slowdown, the picture has improved significantly over the past year with the county gaining 74,000 jobs for a robust growth rate of 2 percent. Professional and business services led the way, gaining nearly 24,000 jobs; leisure and hospitality services was next with 18,000 additional jobs. Even the long-suffering construction sector has rebounded, up 8,600 jobs.

“This summer has definitely been better than last summer,” Watson said.