unemployment down

California unemployment rate falls to 6.7% in February

By Tiffany Hsu
March 20, 2015

California’s labor market continued to gain strength in February as employers in the state added 29,400 workers.

The unemployment rate slipped to 6.7% — its lowest level in nearly seven years — down from 8% in February of last year, according to the state Employment Development Department.

The national rate in February was 5.5%.

“It’s really an outstanding set of job gains,” said Robert Kleinhenz, chief economist for the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp. “These are very good numbers — a continuation of a strong growth trend.”

Nonfarm payrolls in California increased by 476,400 jobs from a year earlier, a 3.1% increase that outpaced the nation’s 2.4% growth rate.

In January, the state also had added nearly half a million jobs year over year.

Other measures echo the trend toward prosperity.

The number of long-term unemployed, discouraged and unwillingly part-time workers declined in the last quarter of 2014, signaling that the state’s labor market is tightening, according to a report from City National Bank and Beacon Economics this week.

Wage growth also improved last year, with the average weekly wage swelling 1.6% from 2013, compared with 1.2% growth during the previous year-over-year period, according to the report.

In February, professional and business services employers in California added 114,300 jobs in the largest year-over-year jump of any industry.

Construction employment grew 6.5%, or 43,400 jobs, in the most substantial gain on a percentage basis. The sector has benefited from low mortgage rates and loosening credit restrictions on the housing industry, according to Lynn Reaser, chief economist for Point Loma Nazarene University.

Only the mining and logging category reported declines compared with February 2014, losing 500 jobs in a 1.6% decrease. The shrinkage was largely caused by the lowest oil prices in years, brought on by a domestic glut of petroleum.

Leisure and hospitality employers in California reported the largest employment boost from January to February, adding 12,600 jobs. Lower gasoline prices seem to have spurred spending at restaurants and on recreation, while intense winter weather in the Northeast probably drove tourists to warmer climes in California, Reaser said.

Last month, dockworkers and shippers resolved a months-long labor dispute that had slowed activity at ports along the West Coast. Trade congestion may have caused the loss of 1,500 related jobs in transportation support services — a nearly 7% dive — from January to February, Reaser said.

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