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California posts strong job growth

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California's economy showed renewed signs of strength last month when employers added the most jobs since October 2012, the state Employment Development Department reported Friday.

Employers created a net 44,300 jobs in November, led by a surge in retail hiring, typical of the busy holiday shopping season, state employment data show.

The robust hiring was broad-based across several sectors, including construction and manufacturing, and helped push the state's unemployment rate down to 8.5% from 8.7% in October.

"It's a pretty good report," said Esmael Adibi, director of Chapman University's A. Gary Anderson Center for Economic Research. "This is the best level of job creation in a year."

Monthly job creation in California has averaged just under 20,000 over the last year, and economists feared that the October government shutdown had put a damper on consumer confidence in recent months. Some were concerned that the economic recovery was slowing down.

Recent economic signs, however, have been positive. On Friday, for instance, a key indicator showed that consumer spending was stronger than previously thought and partly caused an upward revision to the country's third-quarter economic growth.

The U.S. gross domestic product, the total value of goods and services produced, was revised to an annual growth rate of 4.1%, up from the previous 3.6%.

"The fact that consumers are coming back and spending is good news," Adibi said. "There's enough oomph in the recovery that it will continue."

Friday's jobs data show that seven industries added jobs last month, led by the trade, transportation and utilities sector, adding a combined 32,500 jobs last month.

Retail and wholesale trade collectively expanded by 26,700 jobs, state data show.

Construction and manufacturing — two key California industries — also posted strong job gains in November.

Construction, aided by the housing recovery and demand for multi-unit housing, added 6,600 jobs. The manufacturing industry expanded by 6,000 jobs. 

"Employment gains are broadening," said Sung Won Sohn, an economist at Cal State Channel Islands in Camarillo. "The November report indicates that … we're not only seeing steady progress on the employment front, but we are also beginning to create higher-paying jobs as well."

Four industries shed jobs last month, however. The largest decline was in the financial activities sectors, which lost 4,900 jobs. Economists said that drop probably was the result of layoffs in the mortgage industry as fewer homeowners seek to refinance their homes.

Government payrolls shrank by 3,600 jobs, and the health and education services industry lost 1,400 jobs.

The state also reported that October's job gains were revised downward to 30,100 from a previous estimate of 39,800.

Over the year, California payrolls expanded by 1.6%, adding a net 226,200 jobs since November 2012.

The improvement in the labor market has some job seekers like Gabriel Estrada, 19, hopeful that their fortune might soon turn around.

Estrada, who lives in Compton, was laid off from a warehouse job in mid-October. He said he is looking for another entry-level job. So far, he's had no luck.

"I'm confident sooner or later something will come my way," Estrada said. "I'm not expecting to find something overnight."

Stephen Levy, director of the Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy in Palo Alto, said Friday's report showed that Southern California counties are fully participating in the economic recovery.

For a long time, the recovery's narrative in California was driven by the Bay Area's rapid rise from the Great Recession, Levy said. Much of the job growth was in high-tech jobs at firms headquartered in San Francisco and the Silicon Valley. 

Although job growth in November is encouraging, an 8.5% unemployment rate is nothing to crow about, Levy said. "We shouldn't all congratulate ourselves yet," he said. "It's still a slow slog."

Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego, San Bernardino and Riverside counties all reported lower unemployment rates and increased jobs.

L.A. County alone added 32,600 jobs in November, more than half of the state's net job gains. Its unemployment rate, seasonally adjusted, declined to 9.5% from 9.7%.

Orange County recorded the lowest unemployment rate in Southern California. For November, its jobless rate declined to 5.6% from 5.8% the month before. It added 8,700 net jobs last month.

San Diego County added 8,500 jobs and its unemployment rate declined to 6.8%, down from a revised 7.1% in October. The Inland Empire added 13,000 jobs and its jobless rate declined to 9.4% from 9.8%.

Nationally, the economic recovery has been uneven. Nevada and Rhode Island tied for the highest jobless rate — 9% — last month, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday. The U.S. unemployment rate last month was 7%.

ricardo.lopez@latimes.com

Twitter: @rljourno

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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