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Wednesday, Feb 28, 2024

L.A. County Unemployment Rate Rises to 4.9% in February

Los Angeles County’s unemployment rate rose to 4.9% in February from a revised 4.8% in January despite employers in the county adding 42,000 payroll jobs during the month, according to state figures released March 24.

The figures from the state Employment Development Department indicate the uptick in the unemployment rate was due to 11,000 more Los Angeles County residents entering the labor force looking for – and in some cases finding – work.

Since the pandemic hit in early 2020, more than 300,000 county residents had left the workforce – including some suffering from Covid-19 and others caring for ill family members or providing child care. Only in recent months has this trend begun to reverse as the Covid pandemic has eased; in February the workforce increased to 4.97 million.

The county’s unemployment rate remains higher than both the state and national rates. California reported an unemployment rate of 4.3% in February, while the national rate was 3.6%. But the rate was a significant improvement over the 5.7% reading posted in February of last year.

The EDD also provides a breakout of unemployment rates by city and community within the county. The two largest cities – Los Angeles and Long Beach – posted rates of 5.4% and 5.2% respectively. Among cities with a labor force exceeding 10,000, Lomita had the lowest unemployment rate at 2.2% while Calabasas had the highest rate at 7.5%.

For cities in the San Fernando, Conejo, Santa Clarita and Antelope valleys, Calabasas and its 7.5% unemployment rate jumped it past Palmdale and Lancaster for the dubious title of highest unemployment rate; those two cities each recorded a rate of 7.3%.

On the low end for cities with workforces exceeding 10,000 was San Fernando at 4.0%.

In between were the cities of Burbank (6.4%), Glendale (5.2%), Santa Clarita (4.9%) and of course Los Angeles with its rate of 5.4%

Turning to the payroll jobs front, February typically sees a significant rebound from steel job losses in January and this year was no exception. Employers in the county added a net 42,000 jobs to their payrolls in February, bringing the total to 4.59 million.

The EDD also released a seasonally adjusted payroll jobs figure, which showed a net gain of 7,300 jobs in February from January.

Returning to the unadjusted figures, the accommodation and food services sector led the way with a net gain of 8,700 jobs in February. Private educational services was next with a gain of 6,300, followed closely by health care/social assistance (up 6,100).

Only two sectors posted net job losses in February: retail trade (down 2,200 jobs) and transportation/warehousing/utilities (down 1,700).

For the 12 months ending in February, the county gained 102,000 payroll jobs, or 2.3%. The health care/social assistance sector was the biggest gainer with 37,000 additional jobs, followed by accommodation/food services (up nearly 30,000 jobs) and professional/business services (up 21,000 jobs).

Motion picture/sound recording was the sector posting the biggest net drop in jobs during the 12 months ending in February, shedding nearly 26,000. Employment in the construction sector dropped by roughly 3,000 jobs.

Going back three years, to the February 2020 pre-pandemic employment peak, the number of payroll jobs in the county last month was 32,000 less than the 4.62 million recorded in February 2020.

Overall, the county in February had regained 95% of the 784,000 jobs lost during the pandemic-induced shutdown of March and April 2020. Late last year, the payroll jobs data indicated that the county had recovered all those jobs and then some. But payroll jobs losses in both December and January wiped out some of that progress, putting the county once again below the February 2020 peak.

In January, the EDD conducted its annual revision of the job numbers. Unlike last year, when that revision resulted in a boost of 95,000 jobs to the previous December’s total, this year’s revision left the December 2022 total virtually unchanged at 4,624,200.

Going back over all of 2022, the largest revision was a gain of 10,000 jobs for January 2022 as compared to what was originally reported for that month.

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Hannah Madans Welk
Hannah Madans Welk
Hannah Madans Welk is Interim Editor at the Los Angeles Business Journal and the Inside The Valley. 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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