Business Update with Mark Lacter |

How to decipher jobless numbers

The headline number is bad: L.A. County lost 15,000 payroll jobs between May and June, with education and government taking especially big hits. Statewide, 27,600 jobs were lost. But the story is not quite so bleak. Much of the job loss last month came from the phasing out of Census workers. Take Census out of the picture and the state would have reported an overall increase in the number of payroll jobs.

Some of the gains might come as a surprise – manufacturing picked up 7,300 jobs, probably reflecting the production of goods that are being shipped overseas. Also adding jobs was the trade and transportation sector, which makes sense because traffic out of the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach were up substantially in June. So that’s a positive. The leisure and hospitality sector added 3,400 positions (summer hiring), and movie and television production saw an increase of 2,000 jobs (22,000 jobs over the past year).

But there aren’t nearly enough of these success stories – and that's made clear by the jobless rate, which remained unchanged in L.A. County at 12.2 percent. Statewide, it was 12.3 percent. Those numbers have been stuck in the low 12-percent range for several months – and they’re likely to stay there well into next year. Besides, the unemployment rate is not a perfect measure of the job situation because it doesn't include the number of people who have given up looking for work or have part-time jobs. If they're counted, joblessness in California is probably closer to 20 percent. All told, the June employment report indicates more of the same: An economy that's moving ever so slowly. Here's the L.A. County report and here's the state release.