Patrons dinning at outside of Urth Cafe in Pasadena. (Photo by Ringo Chiu).

Patrons dinning at outside of Urth Cafe in Pasadena. (Photo by Ringo Chiu). Photo by Ringo Chiu.

Call it a double-dose of good news.

Los Angeles County’s unemployment rate dropped to 11.5% in February as the county added nearly 48,000 jobs, according to figures released March 26.

The state Employment Development Department reported that the unemployment rate dropped more than a full percentage point from January’s 12.6%, though the rate was still more than twice as high as the 5% recorded in February 2020.

Some 242,000 Los Angeles County residents entered the labor force looking for work in February. Previously, the labor force had been shrinking as residents gave up looking or chose to stay home to care for children or other family members. The data also show that 267,000 more people reported they were working in February than in January.

These positive developments coincided with a drop in the number of coronavirus cases and hospitalizations as the surge that began in November began to recede in February.

Still, the county’s 11.5% unemployment rate in February was significantly higher than the statewide average of 8.5% and nearly twice as high as the 6.2% national average.

The EDD also provided a breakout of unemployment rates by city. The unemployment rate for the county’s largest city, Los Angeles, was 10.6% in February, while the rate for the second-largest city, Long Beach, was 11.7%. The city with the highest unemployment rate was Lancaster at 15.7%, while the lowest rate for a city with significant employment was San Marino at 3.4%

On the closely watched payroll jobs front, the EDD reported that employers in L.A. County had 4.06 million people on their payrolls in February, a jump of 47,900 from January and the first increase in four months.

The biggest gains were in the accommodations/food services sector, which added 32,500 jobs, including 28,700 at restaurants. This increase occurred before the March 15 lifting of the ban on indoor dining at restaurants.

The arts/entertainment/recreation sector added 6,800 jobs, while private sector education added 4,100 jobs.

The sector losing the most jobs between January and February was retail trade (down 4,100). Public sector K-12 education lost 2,000 jobs as debate swirled over how and when to reopen schools.

The EDD also released an adjusted payroll jobs figure that accounts for seasonal fluctuations. For February, that figure showed a gain of 15,600 jobs from January.
For the 12 months between January 2020 and January 2021, the county shed 557,000 jobs for a drop of 12%, according to the EDD figures. The drop is greater than was reported for the county for most of last year. The EDD significantly revised the payroll jobs numbers downward for December and January.

The leisure/hospitality sector lost 180,000 jobs during the 12-month period ending in January, or nearly one-third of total jobs lost in the county.  The food services and drinking places subsector lost 116,500 jobs.

The motion picture/sound recording industry shed 60,000 jobs over those 12 months, for a drop of 39%. 

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