The Breakdown

Explaining Southern California's economy

L.A. County's labor participation is growing despite nationwide decline

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73302 full

The Labor Department reported Friday that U.S. employers added only 74,000 jobs in December, finishing 2013 on a weak note.  Most economic analysts were expecting an additional 200,000 jobs. 

The nationwide unemployment rate fell from 7.0% in November to 6.7% in December, but the drop occurred because many Americans stopped looking for work . Once someone stops their job search, the government no longer counts them among the unemployed.   

The nationwide labor force participation rate declined by 0.8 percentage point over the year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  

Robert Kleinhenz, Chief Economist of the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation, said the local numbers have shown a different trend. 

"In California and in Los Angeles County, the labor force has been increasing over the course of 2013, even as the labor force nationally has been declining," Kleinhenz said. 

The state and county statistics for December aren't available yet, but Kleinhenz points out that from January through November, California's labor force grew by .7 %, while the Los Angeles County labor force increased 1.5%. 

"Part of that may have to do with Los Angeles County and California having a slightly younger working age population as a whole," Kleinhenz said.

While many economists focus on the exit of discouraged workers from the labor force nationwide, Kleinhenz emphasizes the growing number of people approaching retirement age must be factored in. 

"In 2011, the people at the front end of the baby boom turned 65, so we will continue to see wave after wave of people hitting 65, hitting 67, and then ultimately hitting 70, and I think that's going to be reflected in more people retiring, and fewer people left in the workforce," Kleinhenz said.  

In November, Los Angeles County's unemployment rate stood at 9.5 percent, while California's rate fell to 8.5 percent.   The state and county numbers for December will be released on January 24th.  

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