California heaps on 31,200 jobs in October, but unemployment rate doesn't budge

The California Jobs Report 11/18

The world's sixth-largest economy showed no signs of fatigue in October, as employers added 31,200 jobs over the month, according to data released by the state on Friday.

California's unemployment rate was 5.5% in October, holding steady for the fourth month in a row, the Employment Development Department reported.


California has continued a remarkable streak of steady expansion. For the last five years, employers in the state added jobs every single month besides for January of this year. But this report again showed that pockets of the state's economy are not as rosy as others, and some of the largest gains have come in industries that don't pay very much.

Since August, California has generated about a fifth of the total job growth in the nation.

"The Golden State is at the vanguard of U.S. economic recovery," said Sung Won Sohn, an economist at Cal State Channel Islands. "California accounts for a really large share of the nation's employment gains."

In October, the state's employment ballooned by 2.4%, faster than the country's 1.7% rate of job growth. California has added jobs more quickly than the nation since 2012.

Oct. 2015 5.9% Oct. 2016 5.5% Source: Employment Development Department @latimesgraphics California unemployment rate 2016 2015 0 1 2 3 4 5 6% O S A J J M A M F J D N O

Los Angeles County added a net 38,900 jobs over the month, but unemployment inched up to 5.1%, from 5% in September.

Last month was especially good to the state's hospitality, education and health industries, which added a combined 17,700 jobs.

There's a broad, national boom in part-time gigs that don't deliver huge paychecks, including hospitality jobs, experts say.

"The leading job growth [in the nation] since the recession has been in low-wage labor, particularly in restaurants. There are jobs, but great jobs aren't the ones coming back," said Janelle Jones, an analyst at the liberal Economic Policy Institute in Washington, D.C.

The average hospitality worker in California makes $485 per week, compared with the state's overall average take-home pay of $1,200 per week, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

"When you see employment growth, it says a new job was born, but it doesn't say if they get two shifts per week at a restaurant. It's not necessarily a real full-time job," said George Abou-Daoud, who owns Delancey, Bowery Bungalow, and Tamarind Ave Deli, all on the east side of Los Angeles.

New opportunities for waiters and bartenders aren't necessarily a sign that the economy is working as well as it could for those employees, Abou-Daoud added.

"No one who works for me says, 'This is what I want to do forever, be a server,'" he said.

Oct. 2016 31,200 Source: Employment Development Department @latimesgraphics California job growth 2016 2015 -10,000 0 10,000 20,000 30,000 40,000 50,000 60,000 O S A J J M A M F J D N O File name: la-fi-jobs-october Section: FI Run date: 10-22-16 Artist: ranoa X77192 Size: 1 col x 24p8 Reporter approved: Editor approved: P2P slug: la-fi-g-jobs-october © Los Angeles Times

In the meantime, the state has watched its stalwart blue-collar industries hack away at payrolls, month after month.

Manufacturing companies, which make everything from cars to clothes to airplanes, have cut 15,800 jobs over the last year.

California has lost more factory jobs than any other state since 2000. And weekly wages for those workers increased by only $74 from 2000 through the first quarter of 2016, after adjusting for inflation.

Of course, the sector is still huge —  there are about 1.3 million people who work in manufacturing in the state, more than anywhere else in the U.S.

"I've been hearing for 30 years 'manufacturing is dead,'" said Michael Bernick, an attorney at Sedgwick, a San Francisco firm, who directed the EDD from 1999 to 2004. "To me the story isn't the fact that we declined by nearly 16,000, it's that we still have 1.275 million manufacturing jobs."

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