Economy

Tiffany Hsu
June 6, 2014

Southern California fell harder in the recession than the rest of the country and took longer to recover, but now the region’s job gains are outpacing the national employment upswing.

Each month since April 2012 except one, Los Angeles County has seen at least 2% year-over-year job growth, compared with a 1.7% average across the country.

On Friday, the Labor Department reported that all the jobs lost in the downturn are now back nationwide, with 217,000 net new jobs added in May. The unemployment rate stayed put at 6.3%, the lowest in more than five years. But a steadily growing population means that millions of people are still out of work.

In Los Angeles County, only 330,800 jobs have returned, compared with the 435,400 jobs lost from December 2007 to January 2010. Robert Kleinhenz, chief economist with the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp., said he doesn’t see employers closing that gap until 2015.

“We passed an important milestone in recovering all of the jobs lost in the recession in the U.S., but that gives us only partial satisfaction because we continued adding to the labor force throughout that period,” he said. “And that’s every bit as true at the local level.”

Cheery economic reports showing rising home prices in Southern California, along with steadily recovering personal income, will help boost optimism, Kleinhenz said. But new opportunities will lure more job hunters into the labor force, requiring employers to add more jobs to keep unemployment rates low.

Job growth hasn’t kept pace with long-term labor force advances in Los Angeles County, where the population has boomed by 1 million people since 1990. Back then, there were 4,148,400 jobs. The number peaked at 4,227,400 just before the recession started in 2007 and is averaging 4,160,000 this year.

But an LAEDC report this week showed promising signs. In April, Los Angeles County employers added 90,800 nonfarm jobs — a 2.6% boost from a year earlier.

The area’s jobless rate improved to 9.8% last year from 10.9% a year earlier. LAEDC expects the gauge to fall to 8.7% this year and then continue sliding to 7.8% in 2015.

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