California’s record job expansion continued last month as the number of unemployed sank to the lowest level in three decades despite large gains in the state’s population.
State payrolls expanded by 28,400 jobs on top of October’s revised gain of 32,000 positions. The November tally contributed to a 117-month job surge, surpassing the long expansion of the 1960s, the Employment Development Department reported.
California’s unemployment rate held steady at 3.9%, the same rate as in October, despite an influx of new job seekers. That was below the 4.1% in November 2018.
“There was a lot of concern that the economy might show signs of weakness this month” given the Trump administration’s trade war and the election-year environment, said Pepperdine University economist David M. Smith. “But consumer spending has been driving the national economy. Instead of a lump of coal this month, California’s economy delivered good tidings.”
The state’s job market compared favorably with the nation’s.
Year over year, California added 321,800 positions — a 1.9% increase, compared with a U.S. gain of 1.5% over the same period.
U.S. unemployment, at 3.5% last month, was slightly below California’s.
Golden State job gains were concentrated in professional and business services, education and healthcare, finance, manufacturing and government. Other sectors showed little or no change.
Lynn Reaser, an economist at San Diego’s Point Loma Nazarene University, said an expanding state labor force — those with jobs as well as those looking for work — showed that Californians were coming off the sidelines as many companies report labor shortages.
“The pickup in the last three months is impressive,” she said. “The state’s labor force grew 0.3% in November, versus no change in the country as a whole. California’s labor force has grown 0.6% during the last three months. That’s double the national 0.3% rise.”
The total state payroll came to more than 18.7 million in November. The number of Californians who were out of jobs but looking for work sank to 761,700, down by 39,800 from a year earlier.
Nonetheless, Reaser cautioned, “Boeing’s temporary shutdown of its 737 Max production in January could be California’s next worry.”
Loyola Marymount University economist Sung Won Sohn also cited concerns.
“California businesses are optimistic about the future and are willing to hire people to meet growing demand,” he said. “But stiff head winds remain. The trade war has hurt manufacturing employment. And labor shortages have hurt construction employment despite the lower interest rates.”
California’s November job gains were led by education and health services (up 15,000), information (up 8,600) and by professional and business services (up 3,100). Government added 1,200 positions and manufacturing added 2,200.
Three sectors showed job losses: Trade, transportation and utilities (down 2,300); other services, a category of miscellaneous occupations (down 1,600); and construction (down 1,100).
Bank of the West economist Scott Anderson praised the “unexpected growth” in California’s job market, which, he noted, “surpassed the U.S. for the last six months.” But he added: “The combined impact of the California wildfires and blackouts this fall could approach $5.4 billion. That could reduce the state’s rate of economic growth to around 2.3%.”
If so, he said, “2019 will be the first year since 2011 that growth in California will not exceed the nation’s.”
In Los Angeles County, the November unemployment rate was 4.4%, unchanged from a month earlier, but down from 4.7% a year earlier. The county added 17,000 jobs last month for a total of 4.65 million. Year over year, payrolls expanded by 1.8%.
Orange County’s jobless rate was 2.5% in November, unchanged from October, but down from 2.7% a year earlier. The county added 2,500 jobs for a total of 1.68 million.
In the Inland Empire, spanning Riverside and San Bernardino counties, unemployment was 3.6% in November, down from a revised 3.7% in October. A year earlier, it was 3.9%. The region gained 12,300 jobs in November, for a total of 1.57 million.
California’s unemployment rate is calculated from a federal survey of 5,100 California households. The state’s nonfarm payroll job numbers derive from a separate federal survey of 80,000 California businesses.