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California labor market stumbles in April; state loses 4,200 jobs

May 18, 2012|By Ricardo Lopez
  • A job-seeker fills out a job application during a job fair in San Francisco in March.
A job-seeker fills out a job application during a job fair in San Francisco… (Justin Sullivan/Getty…)

California’s jobs engine sputtered in April as employers trimmed their payrolls, breaking a streak of eight consecutive months of employment growth.

Employers shed 4,200 jobs, according to figures released Friday from the state's Employment Development Department.

The unemployment rate dipped last month to 10.9% from 11% in March, but only because discouraged workers  departed the labor force.

"The loss this month is clearly a disappointment," said Esmael Adibi, director of Chapman University's A. Gary Anderson Center for Economic Research. "The economy still has a long way to go to bring unemployment down in a significant way."

The state lost jobs across a variety of sectors, including construction, education, leisure and hospitality and government.

California’s unemployment rate remains well above the national rate, which was 8.1% in April. Only two states have higher jobless rates: Nevada (11.7%) and Rhode Island (11.2%).

Still, California’s labor market is much improved from a year ago. The unemployment rate is down from 11.8% in April 2011, and the state has gained 175,600 jobs over that period.

"The picture is that California’s economy is slowly improving," said Sung Won Sohn, an economics professor at California State University Channel Islands in Camarillo.

 "If you look at employment gains over a longer period, over the last year, it’s clearly improved."

There were some bright spots in the April figures. The professional and business services sector, which includes good-paying positions in accounting, law and engineering, saw the largest gain, adding 12,700 jobs. Other sectors gaining jobs included trade, transportation and utilities; and mining and logging.

Even with April's job loss, Sohn predicts California’s job market will strengthen over the summer.

"I think the economy is moving in the right direction," he said. April's numbers "don't really indicate that economic growth has stalled. Or is being derailed."

In Los Angeles County, the unemployment rate also fell slightly, from 11.8% in March to 11.6%. In the Inland Empire, the unemployment rate fell to 11.7% from 12.7% in March, largely because more workers there left the labor force.

Adibi of Chapman University said the state should continue to add jobs in coming months, but not “enough to make a significant dent in the unemployment rate."

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