Despite the United Parcel Service strike, which knocked 25,000 workers off statewide payrolls last month, California's overall employment market proved surprisingly resilient in August.
The number of jobs reached 13.2 million, well over a million more than at the low point of the recession in 1993, the state reported Friday. While the 9,400 new jobs added last month were well below monthly increases earlier in the year, economists were still impressed with the gain.
"That's actually a pretty good performance," said Stephen Levy, director of the Center for the Continuing Study of the California Economy in Palo Alto.
The state's ability to register a net gain in new jobs in the face of the UPS walkout "confirms the underlying strength of the economy," he said.
California's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate remained unchanged in August from July's revised 6.2%, according to the report prepared by the state Employment Development Department. A year earlier, the jobless rate was 7.1%.
Though the state's unemployment was still higher than the 4.9% rate for the nation as a whole in August, California has been adding jobs at a faster pace than the rest of the country and is quickly closing the gap.
Tom Leiser, an economist at the UCLA Business Forecasting Project, said the new figures put a very positive spin on California's employment outlook for the remainder of the year--particularly since the UPS strike was settled last month.
The expansion is spread across a wide range of industries.
Construction industry jobs shot up 10% in August from a year earlier, to 564,000. The number of jobs in durable-goods manufacturing, which includes everything from computers to furniture, rose 2.8%, to 1.17 million.
Wholesale trade employment increased 2.8% to 770,400, while the number of retail jobs gained 1.4% to 2.26 million. Service-sector jobs jumped 4.3% to 4.11 million, with the biggest increases registered in motion picture production and business services.
The movie business added 8,800 jobs last month, helping Los Angeles County's employment picture brighten, as the region continues to recover from its deep recession.
The county lost 7,400 jobs in August because of the UPS strike. Even so, total employment remained fairly steady at 3.84 million. The jobless rate edged down to a seasonally adjusted 6.6% from July's revised 6.7%.
In August 1996, Los Angeles County's unemployment rate was 8.1%.
"We're looking for the state to fall below 6% by the end of the year, and L.A. will not be too far behind," said Ted Gibson, chief economist at the state Department of Finance.
The unemployment rate in Orange County, one of the state's healthiest labor markets, narrowed to 3.4% last month from 3.7% in July.
Unlike the state and Los Angeles County figures, Orange County's jobless rate is not adjusted for seasonal variations. That makes the county's slim unemployment rate in August even more impressive, economists said, because it includes teachers who were on summer break.
Esmael Adibi, director of Chapman University's Anderson Center for Economic Research, said that Orange County's unemployment rate will probably hover in the 3.2% to 3.6% range for the remainder of the year.
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Southern California Unemployment
Unemployment is beating a retreat in Southern California, with local counties showing a decrease in August from the same period a year ago. August unemployment rate, 1996 and 1997: *--*
1996 1997 Ventura 8.2% 7.5% Riverside-San Bernardino 8.1 8.9 Los Angeles* 8.1 6.6 San Diego 5.4 4.4 Orange 4.2 3.4 California* 7.1 6.2
*Seasonally adjusted Source: California Employment Development Department Researched by JANICE L. JONES / Los Angeles Times