California employers added just 3,700 jobs in December, according to the state Employment Development Department. That was less than a third of the 13,600 jobs that were added the previous month. (Photo by Neil Nisperos, SCNG/File)

By Kevin Smith, San Gabriel Valley Tribune
Posted: 01/20/17 – 11:38 AM PST |

California employers scaled back their hiring in December with just 3,700 jobs added, the state Employment Development Department reported Friday.

That was significantly fewer than the 13,600 jobs added the previous month, but the state’s unemployment rate dipped to 5.2 percent compared with 5.3 percent in November and 5.9 percent a year earlier.

The Golden State saw a year-over-year gain of 332,500 jobs added at a rate of 2 percent. That was down from the annual increase of 377,200 jobs that were added in November at a rate of 2.3 percent.

The numbers have declined but they are not cause for alarm, according to one economic expert.

“You really can’t put too much weight on one month,” said Kimberly Ritter-Martinez, an economist with the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp. “And you have to consider that we are in an economic cycle where we don’t need to be adding as many jobs as we did when we were digging our way out of a recession.”

On a local level, Los Angeles County payrolls increased by 8,100 in December, fueled primarily by job increases in trade, transportation and utilities (8,400), government (2,000) and financial services (1,700).

Losses were seen in information (down 2,500), professional and business services (down 2,400) and construction (down 1,000), among other industries.

L.A. County’s job gains for December landed well below the 22,200 that were added in November and the 38,900 that were seen the previous month. The county’s year-over-year gain of 58,600 jobs was also less than the yearly increase of 65,600 new jobs that was reported in November.

The Inland Empire outpaced L.A. County in December with a bump of 9,600 new jobs, but that was well below the region’s previous monthly increase of new 22,400 jobs.

The biggest employment increases came in trade, transportation and utilities (4,800), leisure and hospitality (4,000) and government (1,900). The construction sector shed 1,700 jobs, accounting for the biggest single loss.

But not everyone in that industry is complaining.

“We’ve been very, very busy,” said Damian Vasquez, president of Sunrise Concrete in Rancho Cucamonga. “It hasn’t slowed for us at all. We do a lot of concrete, artificial turf and landscaping, things of that nature.”

Vasquez’s business has been buoyed by California’s persistent drought. But with more and more rain hitting the Southland some of that business may soon evaporate.

“That hasn’t hurt us too much but if it continues it could be an issue,” he said. “But the economy seems to be on the rise.”

The Los Angeles and San Bernardino county region saw a year-over-year employment gain of 40,800 jobs in December, outpacing November’s annual increase of 34,100 jobs. The Inland Empire’s unemployment rate dropped to 5.2 percent in December from a revised 5.5 percent in November and 5.9 percent a year earlier, the EDD reported.

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