L.A. County’s unemployment rate in March dipped slightly to 4.6 percent, the combined effect of a modest gain in jobs and several thousand workers leaving the labor force.

The state Employment Development Department reported April 19 that the unemployment rate for Los Angeles County fell from a revised 4.7 percent in March, where it had been holding steady for four months. The rate has hovered between 4.6 percent and 4.7 percent for much of the past year, indicating an economy near full employment.

The county’s 4.6 percent unemployment rate remained higher than the statewide average of 4.3 percent and the national average of 3.8 percent.

The unemployment rate, which is based on a monthly household survey, dropped in large part because the county’s labor force shrank in March by about 11,000 to 5.15 million. That has run counter to national trends that have seen more people entering the labor force in search of higher paying jobs.

The payroll job count in Los Angeles County rose by 13,000 in March to 4.53 million, paced by slight gains in several sectors, including K-12 education (up a net 4,200 jobs), motion picture/sound recording (up 3,700 jobs) and construction, (up 2,900 jobs). The retail sector posted the most net job losses, dropping by 3,000 jobs.

The state also released a countywide payroll jobs figure that adjusts for expected seasonal variations and is therefore closely watched by economists. For March, when factoring in seasonal gains in education and construction, the county actually posted a slight drop of 1,300 payroll jobs.

Compared to March of last year, the county has added nearly 38,000 payroll jobs for a growth rate of 0.8 percent. The healthcare sector was the biggest gainer, adding a net 16,000 jobs, followed by professional/business services, which added nearly 15,000 jobs. Despite March gains, the motion picture/sound recording industry has lost the most workers over the past year, shedding 11,000 jobs.

Education, energy, engineering/construction and infrastructure reporter Howard Fine can be reached at hfine@labusinessjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter @howardafine.

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