Entertainment industry boosts job rate

While local unemployment rates inched up in 2010, a modest turnaround in December may signal further improvement in 2011.

The strengthening motion-picture industry and the area's indifference to the struggling construction sector have kept Glendale and Burbank in better shape than Los Angeles County and California as a whole.

In December, the unemployment rate in Glendale fell to 11.1%, 0.3% lower than in November, according to the California Employment Development Department. In December 2009, Glendale's unemployment rate was 10.5%.

Burbank's unemployment rate also fell 0.3% in December, from 10.6% to 10.3%. The jobless rate was 9.8% for same period in 2009.

In December, Los Angeles County had a 13% unemployment rate, while the state unemployment figure was 12.5%.

The motion-picture and sound-recording industry added 4,200 jobs in December, a 3% gain on the month that topped off a 10.8% gain during the year, officials reported.

"It's clearly true that Burbank and Glendale benefit from the entertainment sector," said Nancy Sidhu, chief economist with the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp. "Many local residents work in that business."

Glendale-based William Marzullo, director of the Los Angeles region for employment agency Manpower, said state tax incentives to keep production here are paying off.

Other locally important sectors, such as retail and health care, stayed even in 2010.

The retail sector in California grew by 1.2% in December, and for the year saw a decline of 0.5%. The health-care industry was flat for the month and saw a 0.6% gain in California over 2010, according to the state figures.

"One of the things that helped is the fact we don't have a big construction industry locally," said Don Nakamoto, a labor market specialist with the Verdugo Workforce Investment Board. "That is one area that has just been battered in California."

Statewide, construction jobs fell 2.4% from November to December, and on the whole dropped 7.5% in 2010.

Nakamoto and Sidhu said the financial woes of the state and federal governments will continue to drag on employment at public schools, as well as within agencies such as the State Compensation Insurance Fund, which is getting leaner and moving roughly 700 jobs out of Glendale and Burbank.

"Government is normally a steadying factor, but these days it's tough," Sidhu said.

Still, experts said there were some promising signs in 2011.

Nakamoto said gross domestic product figures, expected to be strong when fourth-quarter figures are released next week, may boost employer confidence and hiring.

Separately, the Republican effort to repeal aspects of President Obama's health-care overhaul may put the health sector on pause.

"It's not whether you are for or against it," Marzullo said. "It is 'How are these changes going to affect jobs in the health-care industry?' and frankly there are schools of thought on both sides."

In La Cañada Flintridge, the unemployment rate in December was 5%, 0.5% higher than the same period in 2009.

In La Crescenta-Montrose, the unemployment rate in December was 6.3%, or 0.7% higher than December 2009.

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