Los Angeles County's unemployment rate sank below 10 percent for the first time in 52 months during April as the economy continued adding jobs, the state said Friday.
Last month the county's jobless rate fell to 9.9 percent from 11.2 percent a year earlier and was down from 10.2 percent in March, said the California Employment Development Department. April's rate is the lowest since it was 9.7 percent in December of 2008, the beginning stages of the Great Recession.
Over the past 12 months the county has added 76,500 jobs, a growth rate of 2 percent, the state said. Both the county and the state continue to outpace the nation in job growth.
"Certainly that's a welcome development," said Robert Kleinhenz, chief economist at the Kyser Center for Economic Research in Los Angeles.
"The bottom line here is that this report is a generally positive report. There are job gains occurring in a wide array of sectors in the local economy. "
Last month the state's unemployment rate fell to 9 percent from 10.7 percent a year ago and 9.4 percent in March. By comparison, the national jobless rate dropped to 7.5 percent in April from 8.1 percent a year earlier and from 7.6 percent in March.
At the county level during the past
12 months the professional and business sector accounted for about 33 percent of the growth, adding 24,700 jobs.
Other gains included 19,100 jobs in educational and health services, 15,600 in leisure and hospitality, 13,200 in information and 9,400 in construction.
Government recorded the largest year-over-year decline with a loss of 9,700 jobs.
Job growth slowed on a monthly basis.
Between March and April the county added 200 jobs, bringing non-farm employment to 3.9 million, the EDD said.
Unclear at this point is what impact the ongoing federal spending reductions will have. They have not yet taken a big toll, though.
"So far this year I think that the national and local economies are weathering the drag from the federal side of things," Kleinhenz said.
Some businesses are now having trouble filling positions.
Galpin Motors in North Hills, which sells 10 brands and is the world's top Ford dealer, is looking to hire 50 employees, said Beau Boeckmann, the company's vice president.
"Today we could fill those jobs," he said. "This is the highest degree of need we've seen. We're at a point now where we're rather surprised that it's been difficult to hire people. All of our brands are growing. "
Salaries vary depending on the position and skill level.
"If you are a master technician you can make $100,000. Obviously that's not coming right out of school. That takes quite a bit of time but it can be an excellent income. "
Job growth followed a similar pattern at the state level.
Between March and April the state added 10,400 jobs and 273,100 over the past 12 months, a growth rate of 1.9 percent.
California Department of Finance chief economist Irena Asmundson said growth slowed in April. The department is expecting a 2.1 percent job growth rate this year, unchanged from 2012.
And it will take until the end of next year before employment in California returns to its pre-recession level, Asmundson said.
Nevertheless, Stephen Levy, director and senior economist of the Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy in Palo Alto, said the state is making steady progress in creating jobs and reducing the still high jobless rate.
"The wealth of Californians is being rebuilt by increases in home prices and the stock market. And across the state one sees building everywhere. The state continues to make economic gains driven by technology, foreign trade and tourism and now a surge in home prices, sales and new building," he said in an e-mail.
And there are some bright spots.
Levy noted that over the past 12 months construction jobs increased by 7.7 percent to 45,000 and the number of unemployed residents dropped by more than 303,000.
"The state still faces the challenges of a slow growth national economy and world economy uncertainties. Yet today's consumer confidence report supports the idea that the country and state are making economic progress." Levy said.