By Kevin Smith and Greg Wilcox, Staff Writers
Posted: 01/18/2013 05:37:15 PM PST

Unemployment rates held steady in California and Los Angeles County last month but the Inland Empire saw a decline, the state Employment Development Department reported Friday.

California’s jobless rate remained stuck at 9.8 percent in December – level with the previous month’s reading but well below the year-ago rate of 11.2 percent.

The state shed 17,500 jobs over the month but it has added 556,500 since the economic recovery began in February 2010.

Robert Kleinhenz, chief economist with the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp., said people shouldn’t place too much emphasis on one monthly drop in employment.

Things are looking increasingly better, he said, when viewed from a bigger perspective.

“The good news about this report is that we’ve seen steady gains in jobs over the course of 2012,” he said. “I think 2012 was a transition year. We finally saw some substantial gains.”

California’s employment grew by 1.6 percent between December 2011 and December 2012 with 225,900 new jobs, according to the report.

Los Angeles County’s jobless rate for December was also unchanged – at 10.2 percent – but down from 12 percent a year earlier.

The county added 9,600 jobs over the month, boosting its overall work force to 3,922,900. Year-over-year, employment grew by 1.8 percent, or 69,500 jobs.

Trade, transportation and utilities posted the biggest gains in December with 3,700 new jobs.

The information sector – home to such industries as newspaper publishing, motion picture and sound recording and Internet service providers – added another 3,100 jobs.

Additional gains were seen in construction (2,500) and professional business services (2,100).

Losses occurred in religious activities, grant making and civic and professional organizations.

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