California adds 90,100 payroll jobs in November as jobless rate dips slightly to 7.2 percent

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SACRAMENTO, California — California recorded its lowest jobless rate last month since the early months of the Great Recession, while the number of additional jobs was the second-largest gain since the state began keeping that record in 1990, the state Employment Development Department reported Friday.

The unemployment rate dipped to 7.2 percent in November, a tenth of a percentage point improvement over October. That was down from a recession-era high of 12.4 percent in February 2010, and the lowest level since June 2008, when it stood at 7 percent.

The state added 90,100 payroll jobs in November, second only to the 111,000 new jobs created in October 2012.

It's the third time this year that the state gained more than 60,000 jobs in a month.

Moreover, every sector of the economy contributed to the growth. The trade, transportation and utilities sector had the largest increase in November, adding 19,000 jobs.

The number of new jobs in November is more than three times the roughly 25,000 jobs that had been created each month on average since 2013, said Michael Bernick, a former department director who is now a fellow at the Milken Institute.

"I think there's no question there's something going on in the California economy that we haven't seen this year," he said. He expects stronger growth will continue through at least the first half of 2015, given that the gains extended across all industries and areas of the state.

Stephen Levy, senior economist for the Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy in Palo Alto, said the job market is now strong enough to draw back some of those who stopped looking for work during the recession. He, too, predicted the trend will continue, calling it "good news for the holiday season and the year ahead" in a written analysis.

That doesn't end concern that many employees still are making due with part-time, lower wage or contract jobs, Bernick said. But he said the gains go far beyond seasonal hiring. November is the strongest seasonal hiring month, but California saw just 43,000 new jobs created in November 2012 and 58,000 in the same month last year.

Department spokesman Kevin Callori said this year's increase seems more driven by a recovering economy and falling gas prices that are leaving more discretionary money in consumers' pockets. Even industries that would normally see seasonal gains are reporting stronger job growth this year.

For the year, nine of the 11 categories tracked by the department reported increases, led by a recovering construction trade with 40,800 new jobs. Year over year, government saw a loss of 3,400 jobs.

The state reported 392,610 people receiving unemployment benefits in November, up slightly from the previous month.

The state still was above the national unemployment rate of 5.8 percent for November. It trailed only Mississippi and tied with Georgia for the nation's highest rate.

California has added more than 1.5 million nonfarm payroll jobs since the recession.

A year ago, the state's jobless rate stood at 8.4 percent, but it has since added more than 344,000 jobs.

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