California adds 82,600 jobs in July; unemployment rate ticks up to 4.8%

LOS ANGELES, CALIF. -- TUESDAY, JUNE 27, 2017: Jesus Matias, an employee for nine years, prepares di
Jesus Matias prepares dishes at the Nickel Diner in Los Angeles. California’s leisure and hospitality sector saw an increase in jobs in July.
(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

July was California employers’ biggest month of hiring in more than a year as the state continued its steady economic growth, although unemployment also ticked up, according to data released Friday by the state’s Employment Development Department.

California’s net gain of 82,600 jobs accounted for more than one-third of July’s nationwide job growth. U.S. payrolls grew by 209,000, the Labor Department said earlier this month.

At the same time, the state’s unemployment rate rose to 4.8% from 4.7% in June. That’s higher than July’s nationwide unemployment rate of 4.3%, but it’s still low for California.

July’s jobs gains were California’s biggest since April 2016.


“We have a ‘steady as she goes’ economy,” said Robert Kleinhenz, an economist at Beacon Economics and the UC Riverside School of Business. “It is safe to say that there is an ebb and flow in labor market conditions, especially from one month to the next.”

California payrolls were up 1.7% in July compared with the same month last year. Economists said some of the July gains could be attributed to the uptick in school hiring before the start of the academic year.

Sectors that saw employment gains last month include government, which added 18,800 jobs; educational and health services, which saw an increase of 18,600 jobs; and leisure and hospitality, which was up 15,200 jobs.



Although increases in leisure and hospitality jobs are expected for a midsummer month, the varied growth across a number of sectors is a “positive sign for the California economy,” said David Smith, associate professor of economics at Pepperdine University.

June’s numbers, which were revised downward to reflect a loss of 3,200 jobs from California payrolls, gave economists pause and led some to predict that the state’s long streak of strong job growth may be faltering.

“We did slow down a couple months, but now these are very strong numbers,” said Michael Bernick, who was director of the state Employment Development Department between 1999 and 2004 and is now an attorney at the Sedgwick law firm in San Francisco. “How long it can continue is difficult to say.”

Bernick said the higher unemployment rate is “not uncommon” when coupled with an improving economy that may encourage people who previously weren’t seeking a job to try to reenter the labor market. He noted that the state’s labor force participation rate, which measured 61.9% in June, is among the lowest since the 1970s, meaning that many adults who are not currently in the job market could yet return.

In Los Angeles County, payrolls shrank by 40,800 jobs — a figure that was blamed, in part, on lower employment during the summer in schools and a seasonal decrease in government jobs. The county’s unemployment rate increased to 4.5% in July, up from a revised 4.4% in June.

L.A. County’s July’s figures are consistent with a recent trend of significant slowing in the job market, Kleinhenz said. But some sectors did do some hiring.

The largest month-over-month gains were in the construction sector and the leisure and hospitality sector. Each saw payrolls grow by 3,200 in July.

A jump in food service jobs — which are part of the leisure and hospitality sector — indicates that consumers and businesses are feeling more confident in their financial situations and are more willing to go out and eat, Kleinhenz said.


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2:15 p.m.: This article was updated throughout with additional jobs data, context and analyst comments.

This article was originally published at 9:10 a.m.