The state’s 2% job market growth outpaces the national rate, with improvement in tech firms, tourism and even the battered construction industry.

 

By Ricardo Lopez, Los Angeles Times
July 21, 2012

While the nation’s job engine sputters, California’s is revving up, thanks to another month of solid employment growth with international trade and tourism leading the way.

Employers statewide added 38,300 net new jobs in June with gains in most industries, including construction and professional services, according to a report Friday by the state Employment Development Department.

“It’s an impressive number,” said Christopher Thornberg, founding principal at Beacon Economics, a Los Angeles consulting firm. “This is very surprising.”

The increase in jobs helped push California’s unemployment rate down in June to 10.7% from May’s 10.8%. The state also revised May’s jobs figure up, to 45,900 from the initial report of 33,900.

California’s job market is growing faster than the nation’s — 2% since last June compared to the national rate of 1.4% — in part, because the state had nowhere to go but up. The bursting of the housing bubble hurt it more than almost any state.

But California is showing renewed strength.

Silicon Valley, powered by such tech giants asGoogle Inc.,Apple Inc.andFacebook Inc., has added thousand of jobs and billions of wealth to the state’s economy. Now Southern California is starting to regain its mojo.

Tourism has rebounded as visitors return to the state’s beaches and theme parks. Healthcare continues to advance, even in a sluggish economy. White-collar jobs such as accounting, finance and legal services are starting to return.

Even the long-suffering construction industry is adding jobs as developers rush to build apartment units for a growing population that is no longer able to afford single-family houses.

“Construction was our biggest major drag for a long time,” said Esmael Adibi, director of the A. Gary Anderson Center for Economic Research at Chapman University. “But now we’re coming back stronger in terms of percentages.”

Still, California’s employment market is far from healed. The state lost more than 1 million jobs during the recession and has yet to recoup even half that. Nearly 2 million people remain unemployed. Discouraged workers continue to drop out of the workforce.

And economists fear that the state’s recovery may falter if the national and the global economies continue to weaken. Looming ahead are the European debt crisis and the so-called fiscal cliff, the year-end expirations of several tax cuts and the prospect of automatic spending cuts.

Adding 38,300 California jobs “sounds like a nice number, and it is,” said Sung Won Sohn, an economics professor at Cal State Channel Islands in Camarillo. “But I don’t think that it’s necessarily ‘Happy Days Are Here Again.’ ”

He said that although the report was positive, the state needs to post at least 100,000 jobs a month for the recovery to kick into high gear.

For some job-seekers, permanent employment has proved to be elusive.

Sheyda Youssofia, a 28-year-old Hollywood resident, was at a state job site this week filling out a job application to work as a receptionist. In the last year, she has landed only temporary jobs through an agency and has felt discouraged by her prospects.

“I just feel that the office industry is not for me anymore,” Youssofia said. “I’m maxed out” from filling out countless job applications and getting nowhere.

Unlike the nation, California’s gains have been more broadly based. Last month, seven of 11 business sectors grew.

Friday’s report also lends more support to evidence that the housing and rental markets are starting to turn around: The state added 8,100 construction jobs in June.

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