What you need to know about California jobs report

What are the bottom-line numbers? The state jobless rate fell in April to 11.9 percent, the first time it's been under 12 percent since August 2009. But considering that the rate peaked in September 2010 at 12.5 percent, 11.9 percent is no great shakes. Only one other state, Nevada, has a higher rate. Even Michigan is doing better.

Why is the rate still so high? The quick answer is that California - and L.A. - got hit much harder by the recession than other parts of the nation. That's largely due to housing and other effects of the financial meltdown. So no one is exactly surprised by the weak recovery, though some economists weren't expecting the jobs picture to remain this poor.

Does anyone know when the jobless rate will get back down to normal levels? What's normal? In September, 2006, state unemployment was 4.8 percent, a number that seems impossible in the current climate (actually it was considered surprisingly low even then). The experts only talk about is getting out of the double-digits, and it could be another two years before that happens.

Are jobs being added? Not many. California's payroll survey - separate from the survey that determines the unemployment rate - shows the addition of 8,900 positions in April. That's lower than the amount needed to just keep up with people entering the labor pool, much less accommodate those who are already out of work. Still another survey has many more people working in April than that 8,900-figure indicates.

How am I supposed to figure out those numbers? The early stages of recoveries typically see these variances. The basic takeaway from today's report is that California is clearly recovering from the recession, but progress is painfully slow - much as economists have been saying for months.

What about L.A.? The county has been hit harder than other parts of the state, but April unemployment was 12.1 percent, which is down from 12.3 percent the previous month and 12.9 percent in January. So that's good. But keep in mind that's a county-wide figure - the city of L.A. is running 13 percent and lower-income sections of the city are higher than that.

Which industries are doing better? It depends on the month, but generally health care, leisure/hospitality (low-paying positions as a rule), and entertainment have been faring the best in L.A. County. Manufacturing has seen some modest gains; construction remains quite slow. Overall, there's been more hiring than a year ago - just not nearly enough.

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Mark Lacter
Mark Lacter created the LA Biz Observed blog in 2006. He posted until the day before his death on Nov. 13, 2013.
Mark Lacter, business writer and editor was 59
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