California's unemployment rate falls to 7.4%

California's unemployment rate falls to 7.4%
Nearly 200 employers sought workers at the Sixth Annual Anaheim/O.C. Job Fair at the Anaheim Convention Center in June. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

California's unemployment rate fell to 7.4% in June — a month in which the state finally recovered all the jobs lost during the recession.

Friday's monthly employment numbers, released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, capped off a year of steady employment gains in California.


"It's good news pretty much all around," said Robert Kleinhenz, chief economist at the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp. "The state of California's economy is continuing to be on the mend as we distance ourselves from the Great Recession."

California added more than 24,000 jobs in June, and the state has produced more than 356,000 new jobs during the last year. The unemployment rate has dropped significantly since June 2013, when it registered 9%. In May, the unemployment rate was 7.6%.

For the last three years, California has been among the top 10 states with the fastest rates of employment growth, according to a Times analysis of federal employment data. From June 2011 to June 2014, only five other states had faster rates of job growth: North Dakota, Utah, Texas, Colorado and Nevada.

California was among the hardest hit in the recession, and initially recovered slowly, said Esmael Adibi, director of the A. Gary Anderson Center for Economic Research at Chapman University.

"But now we're in catch-up mode," Adibi said. "We're doing better than the nation and we're going to pick up steam."

California's June employment gains also marked a symbolic milestone in the recovery with the return to the previous peak number of jobs, reached in 2007. But economists cautioned that the economy has not fully recovered.

The state's workforce has grown substantially since then — by 730,000 workers — when the state's unemployment rate was 5.4%.

But the state has nonetheless seen a remarkable turnaround in the last few years, said Christopher Thornberg, founding partner at Beacon Economics of Los Angeles.

"It wasn't but a couple of years ago that folks were more or less writing us off," Thornberg said. "Now we are growing, and at a sizable clip, suggesting an economy that has some fundamental strengths."

Jason Weiss is the general manager of Scopely Inc., a Los Angeles mobile game publishing company whose workforce has quadrupled in the last three years. Weiss, who is looking to hire dozens of programmers and engineers this year, has seen firsthand the heightened competition for talent as his competitors expand and chase new recruits.

"Earlier on, if someone was looking for a job, maybe they were only considering one other option," Weiss said. "Now there are many more opportunities, and we're battling against those."

The recovery in Southern California has been steady but still lags behind the rest of the state. The unemployment rate in Los Angeles County is 8.2%, down from 10.3% a year earlier.

Los Angeles County and the four surrounding counties have yet to make up the job losses from before the recession.

The San Francisco metropolitan area added 8,100 net new jobs, the most in the state, according to a report from Wells Fargo Securities. Los Angeles metro area added just 1,800 jobs after adding 20,200 in April and 14,400 in May. The number of jobs rose 7,700 in the Inland Empire in the region's largest monthly gain since the end of the recession.


Over the last year, the biggest drivers in California's job growth have been in education and health services and in the professional and business services sector, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics data. The largest job losses have come in the manufacturing and the finance and insurance sectors.

Not everyone has felt the recovery.

Downey resident Veronica Valencia, 29, has not had work for four months. She was working at A+ Educational Centers as a tutor and center director when the Los Angeles Unified School District opted to stop working with the organization in March.

Valencia has been applying for any management or entry-level job she can find in education, human resources, even clerical fields. But she hasn't had much luck.

"It's so frustrating," she said. "I've always been told that with a bachelor's degree and experience, you'll make more than someone who doesn't. And here I don't even have a job."