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California adds 47,400 jobs as unemployment rate falls to lowest level in more than 40 years

California adds 47,400 jobs as unemployment rate falls to lowest level in more than 40 years
  (Source: California Employment Development Department)

The economic juggernaut that is the California economy barreled forward in November as the state added 47,400 net new jobs and the unemployment rate dropped from 4.9% in October to 4.6%, the lowest level in more than four decades.

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(Source: California Employment Development Department)

The robust gains were a slight improvement from the prior month’s upwardly revised 45,400-job increase, according to data released Friday by the Employment Development Department. The Golden State’s economy got off to a slow start this year, but has been picking up steam in the second half.

The state has now added jobs in three consecutive months, after several months of alternating job losses and gains.

“California, which had lagged early in the year, now appears to be on a strong growth trend,” Lynn Reaser, chief economist of the Fermanian Business & Economic Institute at Point Loma Nazarene University, said in an email.

Since 2012, the California economy has tended to grow faster than that of the U.S. as a whole. The trend continued in November. State payrolls rose by 1.7% from a year earlier, compared to 1.4% nationwide.

Michael S. Bernick, director of the employment department from 1999 to 2004, said California is benefiting from a diverse economy that can easily ride a national economic wave, as well as its booming tech sector.

“Tech, by itself, isn’t creating the bulk of jobs directly,” said Bernick, now an attorney at Sedgwick. “But the wealth it’s creating is driving job gains in other sectors.”

Indeed, job gains were seen across most industries, even though the information sector — which includes tech firms and moviemakers — lost 4,200 jobs.

The largest increase came from educational and health services with 16,700 net new jobs, followed by leisure and hospitality with 15,400. Professional business services added 13,700 jobs, while manufacturing and construction also posted gains.

The November report was particularly positive because several headwinds could be expected to blunt growth. They include the high cost of housing and the length of the recovery — now tied for second longest since World War II.

“It is really extraordinary,” Bernick said of the numbers. The 4.6% state unemployment rate was the lowest on record for a survey that started in 1976, when the method for collecting the unemployment rate changed, the EDD said.

In Los Angeles County, employers shed 2,100 jobs on a seasonally adjusted basis, however. In Orange County, payrolls grew by 2,500.

The report comes on the same day President Trump signed the Republican tax bill into law. The plan slashes business tax rates and also cuts taxes for most Americans and Californians. But it also caps key deductions taken disproportionately by Californians and residents of other high-cost states.

Some economists have said the deduction changes could prove a slight drag on the state’s economy, while others expect a short-term boost from lower business taxes. Either way, economists said they don’t expect the tax bill to drastically alter the state’s job market.

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“California’s economy has been humming along nicely, and that is also expected to continue in the coming year,” Beacon Economics said in a forecast released this week.

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For the record

3:10 p.m.: An earlier version of this article and headline said November's unemployment rate was the lowest since the 1970s. Instead, last month's unemployment rate was the lowest on record in a data set that started in 1976, when the methodology for collecting the unemployment rate changed.

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