Applicants at a job fair in Concord, Calif. (David Paul Morris / Bloomberg )
California's labor market showed renewed strength in October as employers posted stronger-than-expected job gains, adding 45,800 workers to payrolls ahead of the holiday shopping season.
With retail trade and transportation leading last month's hiring surge, the jobless rate ticked down to 10.1% in October from 10.2% the month before, according to data from the state's Employment Development Department.
Quiz: The week in business
The state also revised September job gains upward to 32,000 from the previously reported figure of 8,500 net new jobs.
"This was a very strong month," said Stephen Levy, director of the Center for the Continuing Study of the California Economy in Palo Alto. "The state has regained the job growth's momentum."
Nonfarm employment grew 2.1% from a year earlier, outpacing the U.S. growth rate of about 1.5%.
"The economy is moving in the right direction," said Esmael Adibi, director of Chapman University's A. Gary Anderson Center for Economic Research. "California's economy is doing much better than the U.S. right now."
Ahead of the holiday shopping season kicking off next week, the sector with the largest monthly increase was trade, transportation and utilities, which as a group added 24,700 jobs.
Retailers have been beefing up inventory because consumer spending is projected to grow 4.1% to $586.1 billion this holiday season, according to the National Retail Federation. That is expected to boost port cargo volume nationally almost 6% in November, according to the retail group's monthly Global Port Tracker.
The state's job gains were broad-based, with growth in seven industries. The next largest gain was in educational and health services, which added 11,400 jobs. Professional and business services, which includes white-collar jobs such as accountants and lawyers, added 9,000 jobs.
Those gains were offset by losses in four sectors, including government, which shrank by 8,600 jobs, the steepest loss for the month.
The public sector, however, could be buoyed by last week's passage of Proposition 30 and dozens of local ballot measures that will boost revenue, some economists said.
Proposition 30 will provide the state, school districts, colleges and universities with about $6 billion annually for at least five years by hiking the statewide base sales tax by a quarter of a cent and raising the state income tax for people with taxable incomes of more than $250,000.
Chapman's Adibi said employment in the public sector could improve, or at least hold steady.
"This is good news for us," Adibi said.
The Golden State has added 295,300 nonfarm jobs and the unemployment rate has fallen 1.4 percentage points since October 2011.
Private sector employment swelled 58,300 over the month and grew 2.7% over last year.
The report also showed that the state's labor force grew about 27,000, a sign that more people are actively looking for work amid an improving economy, economists said.
"We created enough jobs to more than make up for labor force growth," said Dennis Myers, principal economist for the state's Department of Finance.
Even amid an improved jobs picture, many Californians continue to struggle in their quest to find steady work.
Patricia Murillo, a 56-year-old Los Angeles resident, is among the 1.8 million unemployed Californians.
Murillo, who scoured through a binder of job listings at a Koreatown employment center Thursday, said the economy is not improving fast enough.
The former caregiver, who is living with a cousin, said she is considering returning to school and studying a different career after half a dozen fruitless job interviews.
Relying on public transportation to get around has also limited her job prospects, Murillo said.
"It's not easy," she said. "I don't see nothing better in the economy."
In Los Angeles, employers added 41,200 jobs, primarily in local government. The county's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in August fell to 10.5% from a revised 10.6% the month before.
Orange County lost 13,500 jobs, primarily in education, and its seasonally unadjusted jobless rate ticked up to 7.2%. The Inland Empire, which includes Riverside and San Bernardino counties, gained 8,800 jobs; its unemployment rate rose to 11.7% from 11.6% the month before.