BY JACK KATZANEK
Published: 15 June 2012 10:15 AM
Inland Southern California employers took a strong step back toward hiring mode last month, giving the area one of its biggest increases in job opportunities since the start of the economic recovery, a state report released Friday, June 15 found.
There were an estimated 1,162,000 people on payrolls in Riverside and San Bernardino counties in May, the state Employment Development Department reported. That represents a 1.3 percent gain from May 2011 and stops a two-month period where it appeared that job creation was slipping.
In May, there were almost 15,000 more payroll positions for Inland workers than there were 12 months ago, the data shows. Also, the number of people officially listed as unemployed has declined by 21,000 in that period, although some of that was because of expired benefits.
Unemployment increased slightly, from 11.7 percent the previous month to 11.8 percent. But economists attribute that to the return of people to the workforce. Many people, including those who had gone back to school, stayed home to care for families or who had simply become discouraged, may be actively looking again.
“That’s an encouraging underlying sign,” said Jordan Levine, an economist with Los Angeles-based Beacon Economics.
Statewide unemployment fell to 10.8 percent in May from 10.9 percent in April, and the state reported that California employers added almost 34,000 jobs last month. Statewide data is adjusted to account for regularly anticipated seasonal swings in hiring, while information for counties and cities is not seasonally adjusted.
Chapman University economist Esmael Adibi noted that California’s job creation last month is almost half the 69,000 jobs created nationally in May, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ report from two weeks ago. The number of jobs in California is up 1.6 percent since last year.
“It’s only one month of data, but it seems like California, which was underperforming compared to the rest of the country, is finally gaining ground,” Adibi said.
In fact, when seasonal adjustments are considered, May could have been the Inland area’s best month since the official start of the economic recovery almost three years ago. The region began adding jobs last summer and it reached a peak of almost 1,169,000 jobs in December of last year before declining slightly.
However, December is typically one of the strongest months of the year for job markets because of the holidays. May has graduations and Mothers Day, but those occasions usually do not generate a lot of hiring.
“This was darned good month,” Redlands-based economist John Husing said. “There were a couple of months of a lull, but it looks like not only are more people are looking for work but more are finding it.”
Husing said that the private sector in the Inland area has added more than 19,000 jobs in the last 12 months. Governments and school districts, however, have shed 5,400 positions during that time.
This becomes a larger economic issue because those government workers would be shopping for goods and services in the Inland area and creating a ripple effect for the economy, Husing said.
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