By ADAM BEAM, Associated Press
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California employers added 41,400 new jobs in April, bringing the state’s unemployment rate to the lowest since the pandemic began after 14 straight months of growth.
The nation’s most populous state has now recovered more than 91% of the 2.7 million jobs lost in March and April 2020, at the start of the pandemic when Governor Gavin Newsom issued the first stay-at-home order in statewide that has forced many businesses to close.
California’s labor force – the number of people who are employed or looking for work – added 111,800 people in April, an encouraging sign for employers who have struggled to find workers to meet growing demand of goods and services.
“These are encouraging signs that the California economy is gradually returning to normal,” said Sung Won Sohn, an economics professor at Loyola Marymount University who closely monitors the California economy.
But there are worrying signs on the horizon. California’s job growth is not what it could have been, as indicated by nearly 1.28 million job postings statewide at the end of March. Inflation remains high, with average gasoline prices in the state hitting a record high of $6.06 a gallon on Friday. Home sales – which have hit record highs during the pandemic – have slowed following a rapid rise in mortgage rates.
“Over the past five decades, a similar set of economic conditions has occurred six times. Each of those six times, a recession has happened within two years (and often sooner),” the nonpartisan Office of the Legislative Analyst wrote earlier this week in assessing California and the increased risk of an economic downturn in the country.
With 39 million people, more than 11% of the US population, the health of California’s economy is critical to the nation as a whole. From January 2021 to January 2022, jobs in California increased by 7.4% compared to the national rate of 4.6%, according to the California Employment Development Department.
Of course, one of the reasons California has been able to create so many jobs over the past year is the staggering number of jobs lost in the first two months of the pandemic. It took more than two years for the state to recover more than 90% of these job losses.
Still, new jobless claims in California remain high, with the state accounting for nearly 24% of all new jobless claims nationwide. California accounts for about 11% of the US labor force.
“It’s a picture of a state economy recovering, but I would say it’s at risk of shrinking or stagnating,” said Michael Bernick, a Duane Morris attorney and former director of the California Employment Development Department.
Nearly 80% of job creation in California came from its major population centers in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area. Santa Clara and Marin counties had the lowest unemployment rates in the state at 2.1%, while rural Imperial County along the U.S.-Mexico border had the highest unemployment rate at 11.7%.
Statewide, eight of California’s industrial sectors added new jobs in April. The biggest increase was in the leisure and hospitality sector, which has been hardest hit during the pandemic due to restrictions on public gatherings. The information sector – which includes things like publishing, motion pictures and sound recording, telecommunications and broadcasting – added 2,200 new jobs as the industry has now recouped all of its job losses. jobs during the pandemic.
The largest job losses came in construction, which lost 13,200 jobs in April. State officials said most of the losses came from foundation, exterior and finishing contractors, which were hit by rain in April.
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