September 03: CA Posts Biggest Monthly Job Loss
  36d932.jpg 36d981.jpg

October 10, 2003

By Marla Dickerson, LA Times Staff Writer

California's job market swooned in September, posting its biggest monthly loss of the year as the state's employers axed another 16,600 positions, according to a government report released today.

In addition, the state Employment Development Department revised August's job losses sharply downward to 7,800 jobs, a drop four times greater than reported previously.

The statewide unemployment rate dropped to 6.4% in September from a revised 6.7% the month before. But that was because thousands of discouraged job seekers dropped out of the labor force and are no longer counted in the official unemployment tally.

The latest California figures stand in contrast to an upbeat national employment report last week that showed the U.S. economy gaining 57,000 jobs in September.

Analysts say seasonal factors may be partly to blame for California's woes.

More than half of September's job losses were in the "educational and health services" category, a major sector that includes kindergarten through high school and trade schools, as well as the state's vast network of health care providers. Figures for that sector can be tricky to adjust for the fall return of educators to classrooms.

Some suspect that September's spotty performance is nothing more than a one month statistical blip.

"I don't think this indicates any trend," said Michael Bernick, director of the Employment Development Department. "Educational and health services have been one of our strongest job generators over the last few years, and all indications are that it will continue to be."

Still, job losses in leisure and hospitality and information -- key industries for California -- are a sign that the Golden State's labor market is still struggling mightily. More than 1.1 million Californians are unemployed. Nearly 1 in 4 of them has been jobless for more than six months.

There were bright spots in September's statistics. More sectors gained jobs than lost them last month. Perhaps the biggest surprise was manufacturing, which added 3,500 jobs in September. That is the state's first increase in factory payrolls since April 2002.

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in Los Angeles County fell to 6.7% in September from 6.9% in August.

Other Southern California counties saw similar decreases in their jobless rates, which are not seasonally adjusted.

Orange County's rate fell to 3.6% in September from 3.9% in August. Riverside saw its jobless rate fall to 6.4% from 6.9%. San Bernardino's rate fell to 5.5% from 6.1%, San Diego's to 4.1% from 4.4%, and Ventura's dropped to 5.5% from 5.9%.

To Rich Gibson's Home Page