California adds 29,500 to payrolls in April; jobless rate falls to 6.3%

California adds 29,500 to payrolls in April; jobless rate falls to 6.3%
California's professional and business services sector enjoyed the largest month-to-month increase in jobs, adding 14,500 positions in April. Above, a career fair in Carson last year. (Anne Cusack, Los Angeles Times)

Even as California employers continued to boost head counts in April, they slightly slowed their pace of hiring, adding 29,500 nonfarm payroll jobs.

The number was smaller than the revised 40,500 net new jobs for March, according to the California Employment Development Department.


Unemployment fell to its lowest level in April since 2008, dropping to 6.3% last month from 6.5% in March.

The rate, which tends to be higher than in most other states partly because of volatility in California's large agriculture industry, is the closest it's been to the national rate since fall 2007.

The jobless rate in the U.S. fell to 5.4% in April.

The employment growth rate continued to look good for California. The state's 2.9% year-over-year job growth rate for April continued a 38-month streak of outstripping the national rate, which was 2.2%. But it was also the first time in 30 months that the state's pace fell below 3%.

"We've long since recovered all the jobs lost in the Great Recession and are now marking up new records," said Robert Kleinhenz, chief economist with the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp.

The state's rate of employment growth is also speeding past that of its rivals to the east, especially those with large petroleum pumping and processing industries, he said. Crude oil prices, which this time last year were more than $100 a barrel, have plunged since the summer amid a supply glut.

"At the present time, the California economy is being pulled forward by high tech, tourism and the goods movement industry," Kleinhenz said. "It's outpacing the job gains in Texas, which is saddled down by problems related to slowdowns in the energy industry."

The state's professional and business services sector enjoyed the largest month-to-month increase in jobs, adding 14,500 positions in April. Although leisure and hospitality groups and other services experienced declines, employers in the financial services sector cut 2,800 workers from their payrolls in April.

Over the last year, 42,600 jobs were added in construction, representing a 6.4% increase. Permitting and sales, while "not going wild yet," are on the rise, said Mark Schniepp, director of the California Economic Forecast.

"We're seeing more action now — there are so many more giant housing and nonresidential development projects being proposed or approved all over California, it's amazing," he said. "As the economy goes into expansionary mode and interest rates still remain low, demand is picking up a little bit and developers are more willing to pull the triggers."

The number of jobs related to water transportation rose by 3,500, a 17.5% jump year over year.

Lynn Reaser, an economist at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego County, attributed the "vigorous activity" in trucking, loading and other support operations in part to a stream of imports fueled by the strong dollar.

But also key was the late-February resolution of a months-long labor dispute between dockworkers and shipping companies, a stalemate that stifled some exports and left American businesses scrambling for crucial parts and products.

"The labor disruptions were damaging to a key part of the economy directly involved in the overall local area but with ripple effects that were severe for retailers and others impacted by the distortions in their supply chains," Reaser said. "Some of the economic loss will never be made up totally."


In Los Angeles County, the seasonally adjusted 7.6% jobless rate was unchanged from March but down from 8.4% in April 2014. Nonfarm employment in the county rose by 9,600 jobs from March, with leisure and hospitality clocking the largest increase.

Compared with a year earlier, employers added 109,600 jobs — a 2.6% rate of growth. The 3.4% year-over-year gain in Orange County was even more impressive.

But it was the Inland Empire that had the fastest rate of growth in Southern California, adding jobs at a 4.1% year-over-year pace.

A major contributor in the Riverside and San Bernardino region: the logistics industry. Goods-movement employers added 8,600 jobs from a year earlier, representing an 11.1% year-over-year increase.

"There has been a consistent pattern of faster growth in the Inland Empire compared to other counties," Kleinhenz said. "It is increasingly becoming another center for transportation logistics, distribution and warehousing."

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