Explaining Southern California's economy

California's unemployment rate falls to 10.8 percent in May

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

A job seeker looks over event materials as she waits to enter the San Francisco Hirevent job fair at the Hotel Whitcomb on March 27, 2012 in San Francisco. California unemployment rate fell slightly in May 2012.

The Labor Department released data for May regional and state unemployment this morning. California's unemployment fell slightly, to 10.8 percent from 10.9.

Regionally, the West continues to have the highest unemployment rate in the nation, at 9.4 percent, while for what the Bureau of Labor Statistics calls "geographic regions," the Pacific has the highest rate, at 10.1 percent. Nevada has the highest unemployment rate for a single state, at 11.6 percent (which sounds terrible, until you note that last May, the number was a frightening 13.7 percent).

If you look at the current situation in California, we're definitely in a rut. These monthly tenth-of-a-percentage-point moves show a job market that's not recovering at a robust pace. 

But if you contrast the current situation with a year ago, the picture brightens. This is from the BLS release:

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May jobs report: The U.S. economy just ground to a halt

Job Seekers Look For Employment Opportunities At Career Fair

John Moore/Getty Images

Where's my recovery? The May jobs report from the Labor Department is basically terrible and the unemployment rate is back to 8.2 percent.

Well, it's just completely awful.

The Labor Department just released its May jobs report, and the numbers are even worse than the pessimists projected. We added only 69,000 jobs in May. Economists had expected 150,000, and the ADP report, which came out earlier this week, anticipated 133,000.

The unemployment rate moved up, to 8.2 percent from 8.1 percent. What's worse, the data for April was revised down, reversing a trend of the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) revising the previous month's numbers up. In April, we actually added only 77,000 jobs, versus the originally reported — and rather disappointing — 115,000.

The only positive news in this dismal May report is that the labor participation rate edged up a tiny amount, to 63.8 percent. It's still at a low level not seen since the early 1980s. And people dropping out of the workforce — basically giving up on finding a job or deciding to wait out a bad economy — is no longer keeping a lid on the unemployment rate moving back up. 

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Get ready for some depressing May job numbers

A jobs sign hangs above the entrance to

KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images

A jobs sign hangs above the entrance to the US Chamber of Commerce building in Washington, DC. The Labor Department will release its May jobs report tomorrow morning.

The Labor Department is scheduled to release its monthly national jobs report at 8:30 a.m Eastern Time tomorrow morning, and I'll be on my usual dawn patrol to parse the data when it hits. 

But in the meantime, here's a preview. The Bloomberg consensus of economists anticipates that 150,000 new jobs were added in May. That would be a moderate improvement over April’s 115,000 (which could be revised up, if the trend continues from the past few months). But it’s still well below the 200,000-plus level that we’d like to see, coming out of a strong fourth quarter in 2011 and an optimistic first few months in 2012. And it’s far below the 300,000-plus (really more like 400,000) we need to bring the unemployment rate down and restore the millions of jobs lost in the Great Recession.

The ADP report — which comes out before the BLS report — is also pretty weak, at 133,000 jobs added in May.

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Visual Aid: L.A. unemployment? Better. California? Still awful

California-Unemployment

BLS

It isn't pretty in the Golden State.

The Labor Department released data for April 2012 metropolitan unemployment today. Across California, the picture isn't very pretty. The national rate stands at 8.1 percent, a figure that isn't matched by any metro area in the Golden State except the technology hub of San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont. Much of the rest of the state in mired in the double digits, a full four years after the financial crisis and the busting of the housing bubble. El Centro is at a terrifying 26.8 percent. 

For comparison, most of Texas is well below the national rate of 8.1 percent.

Virginia is basically back to full employment, at 5.4 percent for the state.

The L.A. metro area remains high, at 10.1 percent, according to the BLS. But the good news is that's down almost a full percentage point from April of 2011. 

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April jobs report: Welcome to your spring slowdown, as employment growth slackens

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Job seekers wait in line to enter the San Francisco Hire Event job fair on November 9, 2011 in San Francisco, California. There's been a drop-off in new jobs as winter turns to spring.

"Little changed, little changed, little changed." That's the mantra from today's April jobs report from the Labor Department. It's not horrible: the economy added 115,000 jobs last month and the unemployment rate fell to 8.1 percent from 8.2. But economists were expecting more like 160,000. The modestly good news is that the initially rather disappointing March number was revised up to 154,000 from 120,000. This continues a trend of upwards revisions. February was also revised up, again, to nearly 260,000.

Unfortunately, the trend that isn't continuing is monthly job growth above 200,000 new jobs added each month. That pace would translate into GDP growth — a general measure of how well the economy is doing — in the 2.5-percent ballpark. That's not the 4-5 percent you'd expect in a "normal" recovery, but it also isn't the meager 1.7 percent we averaged in 2011, when the economy endured several shocks that kept us on the edge of a double-dip recession.

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