California's unemployment rate continued its downward trend last month,
dropping to 8.5 percent compared with 8.6 in May and 10.6 percent a year
earlier, the state Employment Development Department reported Thursday.
The state added 30,200 nonfarm jobs in June and May's job gains were also revised upward, making for a total gain of 803,400 jobs added since the recovery began in February 2010.
Robert Kleinhenz, chief economist with the Kyser Center for Economic Research, said the June report looks good.
"My first worry before looking at the numbers was whether the momentum we had in both the state and local economies would continue into the summertime," he said. "I was concerned because the national economy hit a slow patch in the summer as a result of federal budget cuts. But the state unemployment rate has fallen to 8.5 percent from 10.6 percent a year ago -- that's a good signal that the momentum is continuing."
Aerotek, a temporary staffing service, is feeling some of that momentum.
"The average growth rate for temporary staffing is about 11 percent and we're almost double that," said Steve Higginbotham, a senior account executive with the agency's El Monte office.
Higginbotham said companies are growing fast but are also more stringent in their hiring. As a result, they often can't find qualified people quickly enough to fill their full-time positions.
Unemployment rates ticked up last month in Los Angeles County and the Inland Empire but were still significantly lower than a year ago.
L.A. County's jobless rate for June rose to 9.7 percent, up from a revised 9.6 percent in May but down from 11.1 percent a year earlier. The county added 21,000 jobs over the month and 39,800 jobs since June of last year -- a 1 percent gain.
The region's biggest year-over-year gains came in leisure and hospitality, which added 18,400 jobs. Professional and business services ranked second with 17,200 jobs added. Education and health services boosted its payrolls by 16,100 and additional gains were seen in construction (up 9,200) and financial activities (up 4,400).
The biggest loss came in the government sector, which shed 9,300 jobs. Manufacturing -- an industry that has weathered a massive erosion in recent years -- lost another 6,200 jobs. Information and trade, transportation and utilities also posted losses.
The Inland Empire's unemployment rate rose to 10.2 percent in June, up from 9.3 percent in May but still below its year-ago rate of 12.7 percent, the EDD reported. The two-county region lost 6,700 jobs over the month but added 7,700 jobs over the past year.
The biggest annual employment gains in the two-county region were in trade, transportation and utilities, with 6,200 jobs added. Retail trade accounted most of that gain with 2,700 jobs.
Five others sectors also posted job gains with the most notable being leisure and hospitality (up 5,400), educational and health services (up 4,000) and professional and business services (up 1,700).
But unlike L.A. County, the Inland Empire saw an erosion in construction with the loss of 5,500 jobs.
California's improving economy is welcome to most. But the June numbers also signal that the state's unemployment rate has now dipped below a three-month average of 9 percent. That's the the minimum level required by federal guidelines for long-term unemployed Californians to receive the final 10-week extension of their unemployment benefits.
The EDD put the word out earlier this week that Tier 4 benefits would likely be coming to an end.
"We want to make sure that our customers have as much warning as possible about reduced benefits so they can plan their personal finances accordingly," EDD Chief Deputy Director Sharon Hilliard said in a statement issued Tuesday.
All tiers of the federal unemployment extension benefits program are set to expire at the end of 2013 unless Congress votes to make further changes.
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