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California jobless rate falls to 9.8%, lowest in almost 4 years

December 21, 2012|By Ricardo Lopez
  • California's unemployment rate fell to 9.8% in November, the lowest in almost four years, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics said Friday. Above, job seekers wait to speak to recruiters at a job fair in San Jose.
California's unemployment rate fell to 9.8% in November, the lowest… (David Paul Morris / Bloomberg )

With one of the strongest holiday shopping seasons in years, a surge in hiring by retailers helped lower California's unemployment rate in November to its lowest level in almost four years.

The state's jobless rate fell to 9.8% from 10.1% in October, according to data released Friday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The drop in the unemployment rate came even as the state's labor force – the number of people who are able to work and either have a job or are looking for one – grew by 34,100 people in November.

Quiz: How much do you know about California's economy?

A growing labor force is typically a sign that job seekers feel encouraged to resume looking for work again.

But a survey of employers showed that California payrolls shrank by a net 3,800 jobs last month, with losses recorded in education and health services. That sector lost 11,000 jobs. The next largest decline was in manufacturing, which lost 8,900 positions.

A sign that consumers are spending again, the sector notching the largest over-the-month increase was trade, transportation and utilities, which as a group added 12,900 jobs. The sector counts employment in retail industry.

The next largest gain was in leisure and hospitality, which added 3,300 jobs.

The disparity between the falling unemployment rate and the drop in payroll jobs reflects the fact that the two are derived from different surveys: The unemployment rate is calculated from a survey of a small number of households, while the payroll job data come from a more accurate survey of businesses that report on changes in their monthly payrolls.

Over the year, California has added 268,600 nonfarm jobs, the second-largest yearly increase. The unemployment rate has fallen 1.5 percentage points since November 2011.

In addition, October’s  job gains were revised slightly downward to 38,800 jobs compared to the 45,800 originally reported last month.

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ricardo.lopez2@latimes.com

Follow Ricardo Lopez on Twitter.

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