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Job growth in California accelerates, even as it slows nationally

Margot Roosevelt, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Business News

Job growth slowed nationwide last year, but it accelerated in California as the state notched a record 118-month employment expansion.

California's unemployment rate held steady at its record low of 3.9% in December, the same as in November and down from 4.1% a year earlier. The nation's unemployment rate also remained unchanged in December, holding at 3.5%.

The Golden State added 310,300 jobs in 2019, a 1.8% increase, up from 1.6% the previous year, according to data released Friday by the California Employment Development Department.

In contrast, job growth across the United States eased to 1.4% last year, from 1.8% in 2018.

"December marked the end of an impressive year for the state's economy," said Taner Osman, a researcher at Beacon Economics, a Los Angeles-based consultancy. "There was some pessimism surrounding the economy early last year. The stock market had seen a major correction and there was anxiety about trade. The fears surrounding trade, for now, seem overblown. ... As consumers feel secure in their jobs, they spend money and this, in turn, fuels the economy."

December's non-farm job tally was comparatively modest, at 12,600, down from a revised gain of 24,000 in November, as the state has approached what economists consider full employment.

 

But with businesses scrambling to fill openings, more Californians were finding jobs or looking for work. After the labor force contracted for six consecutive months beginning in March, nearly 165,000 people entered or reentered the job market over the last four months. As a result, the labor force rose 0.2% over the year.

At the same time, the nation's labor force grew by 0.9%.

The number of unemployed Californians -- 757,700 in December -- "is the lowest since 1989, despite large gains in statewide population since," the EDD report noted.

"California's strength in technology and its economic diversity helped it to overcome the negative forces hurting the Midwest and other parts of the country more dependent on manufacturing," said Lynn Reaser, an economist at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego.

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