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California unemployment rate falls to 5.4pc in February

SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA (AP) – California’s economy roared to life in February as employers added a surprising 138,100 new jobs, accounting for more than 20 per cent of all employment gains nationally.

“It’s a staggering jump,” said Former Director of the state Employment Development Department Michael Bernick, who is now an attorney with the firm Duane Morris. “Virtually all sectors are showing gains.”

Ten of the state’s 11 industry sectors added jobs in February. The leisure and hospitality sector had the biggest jump, adding 30,400 jobs. Most of that happened in Los Angeles County, which is heading into its first somewhat normal tourism season since 2019. The county, which has an outsized number of service industry jobs, accounted for 44 per cent of all job gains in the state.

California – the nation’s most populous state with nearly 40 million residents – was the first to issue a statewide stay-at-home order at the start of the coronavirus pandemic. The state lost just over 2.7 million jobs in March and April of 2020 as its unemployment rate peaked at 16.1 per cent.

The new data made public on Friday by the California Employment Development Department showed that the state has now regained 87.2 per cent of the jobs that were lost.

California’s unemployment rate fell to 5.4 per cent from 5.7 per cent in January, giving the state the third highest rate in the country behind New Mexico and the District of Columbia. Nationally, the unemployment rate is 3.8 per cent.

The state has added jobs in 12 out of the last 13 months, averaging about 101,700 new jobs per month. California ranks third in the nation for the fastest job growth, behind Nevada and Hawaii.

“These latest numbers show that California is continuing to drive our nation’s job growth,” Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom said.

Prospective employers and job seekers interact at a job fair in the West Hollywood section of Los Angeles. PHOTO: AP