Southern California hires triple in September but unemployment at 12.9% – Daily News

on Oct17
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The erratic reopening of Southern California’s economy added workers in September at nearly triple the previous month’s hiring pace — but the region is still at 90% of its pre-pandemic employment levels.

Local employers added 75,200 workers last month after hiring 26,000 in July, says my trusty spreadsheet using state job estimates for the four counties covered by the Southern California News Group. The region’s 7.1 million employees, however, represent just 90% of February’s staffing when the coronavirus was yet a job-cutting factor.

Workers have been whipsawed by the twists and turns of the state’s business limitations designed to slow the spread of COVID-19. Harsh “stay at home” mandates iced the economy in March and April, and 1.19 million workers were cut.

Next, a gradual reopening was thwarted in July by the stubborn pandemic. That month, 32,000 jobs disappeared. Late in the summer, reopenings began again. As a result, the region has recovered only 386,000 of the jobs lost in the spring lockdown.

This left regional joblessness at 12.9% for September — yes, down from a revised 14% the previous month but more than triple the 4.1% rate in February. Let’s note that the September ties the Great Recession’s 12.9% jobless peak.

“So while recovery is occurring, it is slower than we’d like and it is uneven,” says economist Robert Kleinhenz.

Who’s hiring

A new school year — in person or remote — was a noteworthy change.

Teachers returning to school were a big part of September’s addition of 25,900 government jobs, beinging the region’s total to 951,000. Please note this job niche is still down 84,500 positions from February, putting the government sector’s staffing at 92% of pre-pandemic employment.

Back-to-school shopping also helped retailers. Merchants added 7,600 workers to 692,700. Still, it’s down 53,400 from February or 93% of the positions before coronavirus hit.

Restaurants got a late summer OK to partially reopen their dining rooms — not to mention a boost from added patio dining. So eateries added 15,900 jobs to 509,300. But that’s 174,600 below February or 74% of pre-pandemic employment.

As many big companies got back to more normal routines, the business services industries — from temp help to architects and engineers — added 8,500 jobs to 1.05 million. That’s down 78,500 from February, or 93% of pre-pandemic employment.

Two of the stronger job niches during the pandemic had slow Septembers.

Real estate and construction jobs fell by 1,500 to 481,900 jobs — that’s 97% of February employment. And transportation and warehouses — delivering the goods we’re no longer buying in person — was up 500 jobs in September to 359,000, or or 96% of pre-pandemic employment.

And manufacturing’s 546,500 jobs were up 2,400 in a month, but that sector is still off 47,600 from February, or 92% the recent high.

Chapman University economics professor Raymond Sfeir noted his school’s recent survey of purchasing managers “indicates that the California manufacturing economy will continue to expand in the fourth quarter, and that employment will grow.”

The dark spot remains no fun in tourism as a battle brews between theme parks and Gov. Gavin Newsom over when the industry can reopen.

Jobs in arts, entertainment and recreation rose by 2,800 last month to 101,800 — but this is down 67,600 from February, or only 60% of pre-pandemic employment.

And hotels added 200 jobs to 52,600 — down 40,300 from February or a mere 57% of the industry’s staffing before coronavirus hit.

“Disneyland has such a huge effect on drawing visitors and overnight stays . . you can really see it now,” says economist Mark Schniepp.

Geographically speaking

Los Angeles County: 37,600 jobs added last month to 4.13 million — 89% of February’s job count. August unemployment was 15.1% vs. 16.8% the previous month and 4.6% in February.

Orange County: 30,100 jobs added last month to 1.51 million — 90% of February. August unemployment was 9% vs. 9.5% the previous month and 2.8% in February.

Riverside and San Bernardino counties: 7,500 jobs added last month to 1.42 million — 91% of February. August unemployment was 10.4% vs. 10.5% the previous month and 4% in February.



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