Los Angeles Business Journal

L.A. Jobless Rate Falls to 9.5 Percent

By Howard Fine Originally published December 20, 2013 at 2:30 p.m., updated December 20, 2013 at 11:42 a.m.

L.A. County’s unemployment rate dropped to 9.5 percent in November, its lowest point in five years, according to state figures released Friday. The county also created 33,000 payroll jobs, many of those in seasonal retail hires.

The unemployment rate was down from 9.7 percent in October and 10.4 percent a year ago, according to the figures from the state Employment Development Department.

The drop in the jobless rate came largely as a result of 18,000 people giving up looking for jobs and leaving the workforce. In fact, 9,000 fewer L.A. County residents reported they were working last month.

The county also continues to lag the state and nation. California’s jobless rate was 8.5 percent in November; the national rate was 7 percent.

The county’s two largest cities, Los Angeles and Long Beach, reported unemployment rates of 10.4 percent and 10.3 percent respectively.

On the payroll jobs front, the increase of 33,000 brought total non-farm payroll jobs in L.A. County to just shy of 4 million, a level not seen in five years. The biggest gains were in seasonal retail hiring (up 19,000 jobs), followed by local government (up 4,500) and construction (up 3,800).

Excluding the seasonal retail hires, the county gained 19,000 payroll jobs last month, according to a report released today from Beacon Economics, a Los Angeles consulting firm.

Surprisingly, given the holiday travel season, leisure and hospitality employment slipped, shedding about 2,500 jobs, with much of that coming in the performing arts/spectator sports category. Manufacturing employment continued to drop, slipping another 1,900 jobs.

For the past 12 months, the county added 67,000 jobs for a growth rate of 1.7 percent, down slightly from the 2 percent growth rate earlier this year. The growth was led by substantial gains in professional/business services, leisure/hospitality and construction.

Along with slower payroll job growth comes one more piece of unwelcome news for local job seekers: companies in the last couple months have slowed their hiring of permanent workers and instead stepped up their hiring of temporary workers, according to Mara Klug, Los Angeles regional vice president for Adecco, a Swiss staffing firm with U.S. headquarters in New York.

“It’s now becoming the new normal for many companies to hire temporary workers and keep them on as temporary” instead of converting them to permanent hires, Klug said. “Companies want the added flexibility that temporary workers give.”