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California unemployment at lowest level in three years

March 09, 2012|By Marc Lifsher
  • Job searchers check listings at El Centro employment center
Job searchers check listings at El Centro employment center (Mark Ralston/AFP Getty…)

 California’s unemployment rate in January fell below 11% for the first time in nearly three years.

The percentage of jobless workers fell to 10.9% from a revised 11.2% in December, based on a household survey.

The unemployment rate was 12.1% a year ago.

The U.S. jobless rate for January and February remained steady at 8.3%.

The improved state rate was offset by a 5,200 decline in total jobs in January, according to a separate survey of employers. At the same time, the California Employment Development Department posted an upwardly revised new jobs total of 38,500 for December.

Over the last year, California employment increased by 126,100 jobs. The state's employment has strengthened by 322,400 jobs since the beginning of the recovery from the recession in September 2009, the EDD said.

Trade, transportation and utilities posted the biggest California job gains in January with 14,400 new positions. The worst performer was information, including television and motion picture production, with 22,900 jobs lost.

The downturn, which hit Los Angeles County particularly hard, is causing economists to scratch their heads. They said they're unsure about the accuracy of the number, which followed an annual state recalculation of unemployment figures. Some experts predicted that the job creation numbers could be upgraded substantially when the February state unemployment report is released March 23.

"This report kind of shows a dichotomy between our economy and what's happening on the national level," said Esmael Adibi, an economist at Chapman University in Orange. "Whether it's persistent or a one-month aberration, we'll have to wait until next month" to find out.

 January unemployment in Los Angeles was 11.8%, down from a revised 12% in December, the EDD said.

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