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California unemployment rate increases slightly to 6.4 percent as 54,000 new jobs added in May


SACRAMENTO, California — California's unemployment rate increased slightly in May to 6.4 percent, the first such bump in nearly five years, the state Employment Development Department reported Friday.

The figure increased from 6.3 percent in April even as the agency said strong job growth continued in May.

"It looks like the underlying cause is there was a large surge of people into the labor force and the labor market couldn't quite accommodate them all," department spokesman Kevin Callori said. "It's the start of the summer hiring season, so it does indicate there's a newfound optimism,"

The state said more than 54,000 nonfarm payroll jobs were created last month, following a revised gain of about 17,000 jobs in April.

It was the 55th consecutive month of increased jobs, according to a federal survey of households. Nearly 2 million jobs have been added in the state since the economic recovery began in 2010.

A year ago, California's jobless rate was 7.6 percent.

California still has a higher unemployment rate than the nation, which also saw a slight jump to 5.5 percent in May.

More than 1.2 million people remain unemployed in California, up 12,000 since April but down more than 200,000 since last year. Nearly 400,000 people received regular unemployment insurance benefits last month.

Five sectors grew in May, including construction; trade, transportation and utilities; professional and business services; educational and health services; and leisure and hospitality.

Professional and business services saw the largest job growth, while the information sector had the biggest loss among the six categories recording losses. The losing categories also included mining and logging; manufacturing; financial activities; other services; and government.

Over the past year, all sectors except mining and logging have seen net increases.

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