By Liset Marquez Staff Writer
Posted: 04/15/2011 09:48:11 PM PDT

California’s unemployment rate continues to decline, but Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties have yet to convert that into long-term job growth, analysts say.

Both counties, in recent months, have experienced inconsistency in job growth, said Brad Kemp, an analyst for Beacon Economics.

“Neither Los Angeles (County) and San Bernardino County have turned the corner on job growth,” Kemp said.

California’s unemployment rate dipped slightly to 12 percent in March, the lowest figure since September 2009, the state reported Friday. The figure marked the third straight monthly decline for the state’s jobless rate.

The Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario unemployment rate remained unchanged from the February figures at 13.9 percent.

Manfred Keil, labor market economist at Claremont McKenna College, described growth in the Inland Empire as “stalling.”

Meanwhile, the nation’s unemployment rate, Keil pointed out, has dropped by 1 percentage point during a four-month span.

The Inland Empire has yet to follow the trend.

“It’s not clear what the cause is, which is worrisome,” Keil said.

For the second consecutive month, Los Angeles County experienced a significant drop in its unemployment rate, a trend last seen in the early 1990s. The county posted a revised February unemployment rate at 12.3 percent, which was down from the 12.6 percent reported earlier.

“Two consecutive drops is a very significant statistic,” said Juan Millan, labor market specialist for the state’s Employment Development Department.

The biggest job gains in March were seen in Northern California and San Diego counties, Millan said.

Despite a declining unemployment rate, Los Angeles County experienced the biggest job loss in the state with a decline of 17,900.

Kemp said he was not startled by the drop, saying the figure is a correction to an over-inflated figure from February’s gains.

“There’s still a growth trend,” he said. “There’s clear evidence of several months of growth.”

The biggest drop in jobs in Los Angeles County was seen in the professional and business services industry, which reported an overall loss of 7,300 jobs.

Other sectors seeing a decline included employment services (7,100), administrative support (8,900) and the entertainment industry (1,700).

Leisure and hospitality posted the largest growth for the month, adding 4,500 jobs.

“Overall, it’s so mild it’s relatively flat, there’s not significant growth,” Kemp said.

Last year, the county experienced three consecutive months of a decreases only to see it rise over a period of eight to nine months, he said.

Since December, when unemployment in the county peaked at 13 percent, the rate has been on a decline, Millan said.

But Millan is remaining cautiously optimistic by the new data.

“There’s no solid evidence that this is a complete turnaround,” he said. “It’s still too early to tell.”

Riverside and San Bernardino counties lost only 500 jobs for the month.

“In a 1.1 million job market, that’s a drop in the bucket,” Kemp said.

After months of consecutive decline in jobs in San Bernardino County, dating back to October 2009, job growth has become flat, Kemp said.

Despite an unemployment rate of 13.9 percent, the county is in the best economic situation, mainly due to the fact that companies are operating more efficiently, Kemp said.

Keil said the private sector is not adding enough jobs compared to the jobs being lost in the government sector, as there were 200 federal jobs lost in the counties in March, according to a revised jobs report issued by Beacon.

One leading indicator that could help the market turn around in San Bernardino County is the consistent job growth in the temporary agencies sector, which has posted gains since November, Kemp said.

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