The Breakdown

Explaining Southern California's economy

California unemployment is highest in US, but construction continues to improve

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43634 full

California tied Rhode Island for the highest unemployment rate in the U.S. in January, the Labor Department reported Monday. Both states currently stand at 9.8 percent.

California's unemployment rate has been stuck at 9.8 percent for three months in a row. However, the state continues to be among the nation's leaders in job growth. California has added 254,900 jobs since January of 2012, second only to Texas, which has added 310,900.

And any comparisons between California and Rhode Island are of the apples-to-oranges variety: Rhode Island has less than half a million total employed workers, while California has over 14 million.

Construction continued to show marked employment improvement in California in January, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. More than 7,000 construction jobs were added in from December to January; only the leisure and hospitality sector did better, adding a little over 8,000 jobs. 

It was the third consecutive month of construction hiring increases in California. And on a year-over-year basis, the state saw construction add 17,600 more jobs this January than in 2012.

Nationally, construction added 28,000 jobs in January, so a quarter of those were in California. At this point, it's reasonable to expect that this trend will continue. Spring is typically a stronger season for real estate than winter, and throughout California, inventories of homes for sale are so limited that sales have been falling, after recovering for much of 2012.

Prices, on the other hand, have been rising. Homebuilders have recognized this and have started to ramp up new construction. Housing starts still are well below the level achieved before the financial crisis, but they're higher than they've been in four years.

Follow Matthew DeBord and the DeBord Report on Twitter. And ask Matt questions at Quora.

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