California coastal counties add jobs in November while rural areas continue to suffer high unemployment
Helped by a surprising rise in manufacturing, California employers added 13,600 jobs in November and nudged the state unemployment rate down to 5.3%, according to data released Friday.
The state unemployment rate had held steady for four months at 5.5% before November, according to the California Employment Development Department. The nation’s jobless rate fell to 4.6% last month.
Industries that did especially well in November include trade, transportation and utilities, a sector that added 9,600 total jobs.
Much of that came in transportation and warehousing, an indication of the continued growth of online shopping this holiday season, said Mark Vitner, a senior economist at Wells Fargo.
Manufacturing also saw a boost, with a gain of 6,300 jobs.
Economists cautioned not to read too much into November’s manufacturing growth. Manufacturing companies have cut more than 15,000 jobs over the last year, and California has lost more factory jobs than any other state since 2000.
“Manufacturing has declined for a long time, and I think it’s in the process of stabilizing at a very low level,” said Sung Won Sohn, a professor of economics at Cal State Channel Islands. “I don’t think this represents a significant rebound forthcoming.”
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The largest decrease came in the leisure and hospitality sector, which recorded a loss of 10,900 jobs.
In Los Angeles County, the unemployment rate held steady at 5.1% in November as employers added a net 22,200 jobs.
Though jobs in the county’s construction industry fell more than usual, the holiday shopping season helped boost retail jobs at places like department stores by 13,100, compared to October’s numbers.
Bay Area counties recorded unemployment rates of 3% to 3.5%, reflecting the strength of the tech sector. Orange County’s unemployment rate fell to 3.7%.
But the jobs picture in California remains uneven, with several rural inland and northern communities continuing to suffer.
The unemployment rate in Central Valley counties such as Madera and Fresno hovered around 9%, while Merced’s joblessness rate jumped to 9.5%, from 8.5% in October.
The economy in those areas is dominated by agriculture, and the employment data could reflect falling food prices, said Christopher Thornberg, director of the UC Riverside School of Business economic forecast and founding partner of Beacon Economics.
The Central Valley’s unemployment rates have risen steadily for the most part since September, but they are still lower than they were a year ago.
“The labor market has tightened up,” Vitner said. “Their unemployment rates are still high, but they’ve come down rather substantially in the last year.”
Compared to past months, economists said November’s state jobs growth was small, though there were no signs of specific areas of weakness.
Over the last 12 months, California employers have added 377,200 people to their payrolls, an increase of 2.3%. That’s faster than the 2.1% job growth in the nation as a whole over the last year.
“Typically, what we see is when a state like California grows very rapidly, that is offset by a slow-down later on,” Sohn said. “That’s a very typical pattern.”
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3 p.m.: This article was updated throughout with economists’ comments and more context about the rest of the state.
This article was originally published at 9:40 a.m.
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