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L.A. County Regains All Jobs Lost in Pandemic Lockdown

It’s official: Los Angeles County has finally regained all of the 785,000 payroll jobs lost in the spring 2020 pandemic lockdown, and then some, according to state figures released Dec. 16.

L.A. County was a little late to this party: the state passed that milestone in October, while the nation recovered all the pandemic-induced job losses in July.

The figures from the state Employment Development Department also show the county’s unemployment rate held steady in November at 4.9% compared to October.

The number of Los Angeles County residents reporting they were working in November fell by 21,000 to 4,713,000, but that was offset by a corresponding drop in the labor force of 20,000 residents to 4,956,000.

Nonetheless, the rate is down from 6.9% in November of last year and way down from the pandemic lockdown peak of 21%.

The county’s labor force has shrunk by 315,000 jobs, or 6% since the level reached in February 2020, which has led to persistent labor shortages in many industries and helps explain why hiring remains brisk despite high inflation and rising interest rates.

As for the jobs milestone, the county gained 37,000 payroll jobs in November to reach 4,644,600. That’s about 24,000, or 0.5%, more jobs than were recorded in Feb. 2020, just before the pandemic lockdown hit. The November tally was just 1,100 jobs short of pre-pandemic November 2019.

The EDD also releases an adjusted figure for payroll jobs that takes into account normal seasonal variations such as holiday retail hiring; that figure showed a gain of 18,000 jobs, which is one of the largest monthly increases this year.

Payroll job gains were spread across nearly every major sector of the county’s economy in November, led by increases from October of 8,700 jobs in retail trade, 7,900 in motion picture/sound recording, 7,800 in professional/business services and 6,600 in local government K-12 education.

Only one sector saw a somewhat significant drop in payroll jobs between October and November: construction, which shed 900 jobs.

Over the past 12 months, the county gained 193,000 payroll jobs, a 4.4% increase. Health care/social assistance was the biggest gainer, with an increase of 33,400 jobs. Professional/business services came in next, with an increase of roughly 30,000 jobs. Accommodation/food services, which has until recently led the jobs recovery, came in third, adding on net roughly 28,000 jobs.

On the unemployment rate front, the 4.9% figure for November was higher than the statewide average of 4.1% and the national average of 3.7%. But that gap has been steadily closing: a year ago the county’s unemployment rate was more than 1.5 times the national rate.

The EDD also releases a city breakout of unemployment rates. The county’s two largest cities, Los Angeles and Long Beach, posted the same rate of 4.6%. Among cities with labor forces exceeding 10,000 people, Lancaster had the highest unemployment rate at 6.7%, while Lomita had the lowest at 2%.

Among cities in the San Fernando and Antelope valleys and the Santa Clarita area with more than 10,000 people in their labor forces, Palmdale had the second highest unemployment rate (6.4%) behind Lancaster, followed by Calabasas at 5.9%. Burbank had a 5.4% unemployment rate and Glendale was next with a 4.4% rate. Santa Clarita was next at 4.0% and the city of San Fernando posted the lowest unemployment rate at 3.9%.

Hannah Madans Welk
Hannah Madans Welk
Hannah Madans Welk is a managing editor at the Los Angeles Business Journal and the San Fernando Valley Business Journal. She previously covered real estate for the Los Angeles Business Journal. She has done work with publications including The Orange County Register, The Real Deal and doityourself.com.
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