Explaining Southern California's economy

California and LA unemployment: Improving, but very slowly

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A "we are hiring" sign is displayed on a table during the San Francisco Hirevent job fair. California's jobless rate in October fell to 10.1 percent from 10.2 percent.

The California Employment Development Department released its report on October jobs in the state Friday. The federal Labor Department will release its report next week. The story is good, in a tenth-of-a-percentage-point kind of way: the jobless rate fell to 10.1% in October, from September's 10.2%.

In Los Angeles, the unemployment rate dropped to 10.5 from 10.6%.

"We're seeing everything start to move in he right direction," said Kimberly Ritter-Martinez, an economist with the Los Angeles Economic Development Corp. "We're edging closer to breaking that 10% mark."

That could happen soon if California continues to add jobs as it has at a faster clip than the nation as a whole. In the U.S. jobs are being added at a rate of 1.5%. In California, the rate is 2.1%, driven by the strong performance of the tech sector in Silicon Valley and the San Francisco Bay Area.

In Los Angeles, job growth is running at 1.5% also, "on a par with the rest of the nation," Ritter-Martinez said. She cautioned, however, that the LAEDC isn't expecting breakout economic growth on the regional or national level in the near future. The U.S. economy is expanding at a rate of 2%, a pattern that's mirrored here in the Southland.

Ritter-Martinez doesn't expect that to change much during the fourth quarter or heading into early 2013. "We don't see anything major taking it up or down," she said.

The job gains that are happening in L.A. are broad-based, she said, with 95% of job gains happening in sectors such as professional and business services, leisure and hospitality, trade and transportation, and health care. What's holding L.A. back from stronger job growth? A sluggish economy, to be sure, but also its mix of industries and the level of educational attainment among people who live here.

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