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Joblessness Falls to 7.4% in November : * Employment: Other state figures indicate that the economy remains stalled and may be worsening.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

California’s jobless rate fell to 7.4% in November, down from 7.8% in October, but other employment statistics released Friday suggest that the state’s economy remains stuck in a severe slump that may be getting worse.

Monthly figures from the California Employment Development Department also showed that Los Angeles County still is one of the hardest-hit areas in the state. The county’s jobless rate--an often-volatile figure based on a relatively small survey--was estimated to be 8.5% in November, up from 7.8% the month before and 5.8% a year earlier.

Orange County’s jobless rate was 4.9% in October. No figure for November is available yet.

Nationally, the jobless rate held steady at 6.8% in November, but economists were dismayed by the loss of 241,000 jobs during the month.

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“The economy continues to be stalled, and there’s nothing in the employment data for the state or nation to indicate that a recovery has begun,” said Stephen Levy, director of the Palo Alto-based Center for the Continuing Study of the California Economy.

“We’re still in a down slide,” added Joseph A. Wahed, chief economist for Wells Fargo Bank in San Francisco. He said the state’s weak retail, auto and home sales figures lately indicate that the slump will continue for months.

The 7.4% jobless rate reported by the Employment Development Department was derived from a survey of 4,600 households across the state that showed the number of employed rising by 45,000 in November.

However, many economists attributed the fall in the state’s jobless rate to statistical quirks and the withdrawal of some discouraged job hunters from the labor market.

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California’s economic picture in November was blurred by contradictory employment reports.

Two measures of employment that generally are considered more accurate and stable indicators by private-sector economists signalled a weakening job market. One of those indicators was the monthly survey of 37,000 of the state’s big non-agricultural employers. It showed California’s seasonally adjusted job total declining by 24,900 from October’s level, to nearly 12.8 million.

That closely watched survey also indicated that the job total was down 109,200 from November, 1990, when the state’s unemployment rate was 6.5%.

In addition, the number of Californians receiving regular unemployment insurance benefits climbed to 563,165 in November, up 24% from October and up 39% from November, 1990.

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Citing those figures, Levy said it likely will take several months or more before the California economy bounces back. “Recoveries,” he said, “don’t start until job totals turn up.”

The EDD report put a better face on the economic statistics, calling the unemployment figures “encouraging.” Still, Thomas P. Nagle, director of the department, said in a news release that “this is not necessarily significant evidence that the recession has ended in California. We expect the unemployment rate to remain somewhat stable for the next several months.”

For many of California’s estimated 1.1 million unemployed, including many blue-collar employees who have been out of work for months, the weak job market is a daily fact of life. “Most of the people around here are just saying things are bad,” said David H. Hendon, manager of the federally funded Verdugo Center for Jobs and Retraining in Burbank.

“I don’t think anyone here believes things are getting better,” said Hendon, whose center serves out-of-work defense and aerospace workers. “I don’t know if anyone thinks things are getting worse. It’s just bad.”

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Statewide, teen-agers posted the highest unemployment rate, 19.6%, followed by Latinos, at 11.6%, and blacks, at 10.8%. Unemployment among whites stood at 7.1%.

The 8.5% jobless figure for Los Angeles County puts the unemployment rate back at around the level where it hovered most of the summer. Still, it is down from the 9.3% rate of September, which was the highest level since July, 1984.

Jay Horowitz, an EDD labor market analyst who tracks Los Angeles County, said that “it appears that a continuing malaise is going on” in the county. “The same industries that have been hurt all year continue to lose employment,” he said.

Horowitz noted that manufacturing and retail employment have been hardest hit in Los Angeles County over the past year, but added that seven of the nine broad industry groups tracked by his department show job losses over the period. The only sectors showing employment gains are services and government.

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