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California's Job Market Remains Strong in Oct.

Labor: State's jobless rate drops slightly to 4.7%, and 39,500 positions are created. Record 16.3 million people are employed.


Despite early signs of a slowing economy, California's strong job growth continued last month, with the unemployment rate dipping slightly to 4.7% and 39,500 jobs being created statewide, state officials said Monday.

"What strikes me about the numbers is the continual strong job growth, the nearly half a million jobs created in the past year and the number of people unemployed continuing to remain low at 813,000," said Michael S. Bernick, director of the California Employment Development Department.

"We see these 'new-economy' companies that go out of business and lay people off. But it's more than made up for in California by continued job growth, particularly in the business services area," Bernick said.

October's jobless rate was lower than the 4.8% reported for September and the 5% of a year ago. But it remained higher than the national figure of 3.9% for October. A record 16.3 million people in the state held jobs last month.

But Scott Grannis, chief economist for Western Asset Management in Pasadena, said he doesn't expect the labor market to stay this tight, because of slowing investment, increasing fuel prices and high tax burdens.

"California is starting to slowly run out of gas like the nation," Grannis said. "It's still growing at a healthy rate, but at a slower rate as time goes by."

All sectors except for mining added jobs in October, led by services, which, with 20,400 new jobs, was responsible for more than half the total gain.

Bay Area counties continued to report the lowest jobless rates, led by San Mateo at 1.4%, down from 1.8% in October 1999. By contrast, the highest unemployment rate was in Imperial County, east of San Diego, at 27.5%, up from 25.3% a year ago. (With the exception of Los Angeles County, county figures are not seasonally adjusted.)

In Los Angeles County, the October unemployment rate held steady from September at 5.4%, down from 5.8% in October 1999.

Los Angeles' unemployment rate is even more spectacular when big losses in aircraft manufacturing jobs--almost 8,000 in a year--are taken into account, said Lisa Grobar, director of Cal State Long Beach's Economic Forecast Project.

"In spite of that, there's enough growth going on to offset those losses," Grobar said. "Almost every other sector is doing well or extraordinarily well."

Jack Kyser of the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp. said the state's monthly jobs report offers fresh evidence that film and television production is being stepped up to offset the possibility that Hollywood writers and actors could go out on strike next year. The motion picture sector added 10,500 jobs over last October, a 5.4% increase.

"It's a huge amount of stockpiling," Kyser said. "You'll see strength in this sector through May, and then kerplunk. Even if there is no strike, they will have stockpiled so much film, you will have a dead period in the middle of next year. You'll have a de facto strike. Next year, it's going to be a wild ride in Hollywood, no matter what happens.

"If you are a restaurant owner, you'll be up to your waist in wait staff," he said.

Restaurant owners, as it turns out, have been doing quite a bit of hiring statewide. Thanks almost entirely to restaurants and bars, retail trade employment in October made its largest monthly advance since July, growing by 5,300 jobs.

"Retail trade includes takeout food and things like that, and, since people have jobs, they would be eating more of that," said Cecilia Conrad, an associate professor of economics at Pomona College.

Orange County led Southern California with the lowest October unemployment rate at 2.3%, down from 2.6% last October. San Diego County was next at 2.8%, also lower than a year ago, when the rate was 2.9%.

Ventura County's jobless rate in October was 4.3%, down from 4.6% a year ago. San Bernardino County's unemployment rate was 4.4% in October, down from 4.6% last year.

Riverside County's unemployment rate was the highest in the region at 5.6% in October, the same as a year ago.


Slowing Growth

California gained 39,500 jobs in October, despite signs of a slowing economy. The state's unemployment rate dropped slightly.

October: 4.7%

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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