By Chris Kirkham
June 19, 2015

  • California adds 54,200 jobs in May; unemployment rate slightly up to 6.4%
  • California continues nearly four-year streak of monthly job growth, adding 54,200 jobs in May

California employers continued a nearly four-year hiring streak by adding 54,200 jobs in May, one of the largest monthly employment jumps in the last year.

The state’s unemployment rate edged up to 6.4%, slightly higher than 6.3% in April, but significantly down from a rate of 7.6% a year earlier, according to data released Friday. Economists saw the small uptick in unemployment as encouraging, however, because more people entered the state’s labor force last month than at any time in the last quarter of a century — a sign of renewed confidence in the job market.

The construction industry continued to be state’s fastest-growing job creator, expanding at more than twice the rate of California’s overall job growth. Although there are still far fewer Californians working in construction than at the peak of the housing bubble in 2006, the industry is rebounding swiftly.

Just as California’s real estate market was one of the hardest hit by the economic downturn, experts said housing and construction jobs are some of the quickest to bounce back in an expansion. Because California’s property values tend to be higher than the rest of the U.S., the state is exposed to larger swings in parts of the economy tied to real estate.

“We are going up faster because we went down faster,” said Sung Won Sohn, a professor of economics at Cal State University Channel Islands.
Many of the commercial projects are multiyear projects, so I think construction will remain strong for quite some time. – Mark Vitner, senior economist, Wells Fargo

Mike Holwick, a principal at Holwick Constructors in Woodland Hills, said the company pulled in more revenue last year than at any time since he took over the business in 2002. His firm specializes in interior office construction for the entertainment and legal industries. In the last two years, he said, his clients have splurged on employee lounges, TVs throughout the office and much higher-end finishes.

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