California outpacing U.S. on job growth, unemployment falls to 5.3%

California employers picked up hiring in April, adding 59,600 jobs during the month, according to state data released Friday.

Unemployment, which has been steadily declining, reached 5.3%, inching closer to the national unemployment rate of 5%, the Employment Development Department reported. April marked the lowest unemployment rate for the state since June 2007. 

The state continued to outpace the country in job growth, adding 450,200 jobs since April 2015. Employment in California increased by 2.8% in the last 12 months, compared with 1.9% for the national economy. The state's job growth last month nearly doubled the increase in April 2015, which saw an uptick of 31,200.

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"The gain is one of the highest we’ve had in 20 years," said Michael S. Bernick, a former EDD director. "It is a very strong time. It isn’t limited to one sector, it's across sectors, that’s very important in terms of its sustainability."

Some of the state’s largest labor markets have rebounded to levels last seen before the Great Recession. Los Angeles County posted an unemployment rate of 4.7%, without adjusting for seasonality, the lowest since May 2007. Orange County’s unemployment rate of 3.9% in April was its lowest since 2007.

In the Bay Area, the jobs scene is rivaling that of the dot-com boom of the early 2000s. Santa Clara saw unemployment decline to 3.6%, the lowest level since March 2001. In San Mateo, unemployment dipped below 3% for the first time since February 2001.

Ten industries boosted job growth statewide in April, adding 61,400 positions in total. Professional services, which has seen some of the strongest job gains in the state since the recovery, posted the largest gain, adding 17,900 jobs, or about 30% of the total net increase.

Information, which includes technology but also entertainment and publishing businesses, was the only area that cut jobs in April, registering a loss of 1,800 positions.

"We are beginning to see markets slow down in information," said Sung Won Sohn, an economist at Cal State Channel Islands.

 

 

The state's banner showing follows a patchy first quarter. In January, California employers cut payrolls by 4,000, marking the first time the state lost jobs since June 2011. The state rebounded in February, adding 46,600 jobs, but posted a meager gain of 5,200 jobs in March. 

Bernick, the former EDD director, cautioned against too much cheerleading. In the early 2000s, he said, some people were so excited about the economy, and low joblessness, that they predicted the country could keep the good times rolling forever. 

"There was a lot of talk then that perhaps we had transcended the business cycle," said Bernick. "That proved not to be the case."

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UPDATES:

12:30 p.m.: This story was updated with additional details.

This story was originally published at 9:51 a.m.

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