Explaining Southern California's economy

CHART: January jobs report: US adds 157,000 jobs, unemployment rate goes to 7.9 percent

Walmart hiring


Daniel Vera, assistant manager at the Altadena Walmart Neighborhood Market, greets job seekers at the "Hiring Altadena" event.

The Labor Department released its January jobs report Friday. The country added 157,000 jobs for the month and the unemployment rate went to 7.9 percent from December's 7.8 percent.

In the words of the Bureau of Labor Statistics' economists, the situation was "essentially unchanged" from last month.

The 157,000 number was lower than what payrolls processor ADP reported earlier as well as what economists surveyed by Bloomberg were expecting. However, it was in line with the pace of job growth in the U.S. over the past 12 months.

The economy can tread water with sub-200,000-per-month job growth. To really drive the unemployment rate down to what economists call "full employment" — an unemployment rate of around 5 percent — the economy would need to add 300,000-to-400,000 new jobs each month.


January jobs preview: We could be facing an ugly number

A jobs sign hangs above the entrance to


A jobs sign hangs above the entrance to the US Chamber of Commerce building in Washington, DC.

Friday morning, the Labor Department will release its jobs report for January. I'll be up at the crack of dawn in Southern California to write up the numbers when they hit, so join me in the darkness with a big cup of coffee or three.

The current U.S. unemployment rate is 7.8 percent. Private payrolls processor ADP, which generates an employment report ahead of the Labor Department, said that the country added 192,000 jobs in January.

Economists surveyed by Bloomberg expect 185,000. Both numbers are higher than what we wound up getting, on a preliminary basis, from the official government data in December: 155,000.

If ADP and the Bloomberg economist brain trust are right, then we're off to a decent start for 2013 — although to really push the unemployment rate lower in a hurry, we need to add 300-400,000 new jobs each month. 


San Bernardino is not having a very good week

 bankrupt pensions

Steven Cuevas / KPCC

As if bankruptcy weren't enough to deal with, San Bernardino is home to some of the highest unemployment and home foreclosure rates in the country, recent surveys say.

The Inland Empire city of San Bernardino declared bankruptcy last year. Now it's slogging through the Chapter 9 process, taking on CalPERS, the giant California pension fund, at the same time. 

Sound like enough to keep one struggling municipality busy? Not quite. Two new reports indicate that the city's problems run deeper than just being broke.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Labor Department reported that what it calls the Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario "metropolitan area" had the highest unemployment rate of all large U.S. cities in December: 10.9 percent. That’s down from more than 12 percent in December 2011.

Meanwhile, real estate analytics firm RealtyTrac says the San Bernardino area had the second highest foreclosure rate in the U.S. last year: nearly 4 percent of homes there had a filing in 20-12.


CA unemployment rate holds steady at 9.8 percent in December

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

A job seeker pauses as he fills out an application during a job fair in Northern California.

California's unemployment was unchanged from November at 9.8 percent, the Labor Department reported Friday.

Since December 2011, however, California has experienced a substantial drop in its jobless rate, from 11.2 percent. Over that period, the state added 225,900 new jobs, second only to Texas, with 260,800.

So why didn't California's unemployment rate drop more in December? Because the state earned the dubious honor of losing the most jobs of any U.S. state: 17,500. This reverses a trend of California adding jobs at a decent clip, a highlight in an otherwise sluggish recovery.

California's unemployment rate remains a full two points higher than the nation's 7.8 percent.

In December 2012, sectors that shed jobs in significant numbers were professional and business services and trade, transportation, and utilities. Construction actually saw modest gains, an indication that the housing recovery in the state isn't losing momentum.


California adds jobs at a faster pace than the US, can look forward to a housing recovery

Home Building

Paul Sakuma/AP

Construction workers build a home in Palo Alto, Calif. A real turnaround seemed to take hold in the housing sector in 2012 after years of fits and starts.

The U.S. added 155,000 new jobs in December, the Labor Department reports. But California and Los Angeles County have been adding jobs at a faster rate than the country as a whole —  in an important industry: construction.

Through November, California added jobs at a 1.9 percent pace and L.A. County nearly matched that, at 1.8 percent. The U.S. is adding jobs at a 1.4 percent pace, said Kimberly Ritter-Martinez of the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation in an interview after the national jobs report surfaced Friday morning.

For December, the U.S. added 30,000 jobs in construction. That trend could benefit California, where Ritter-Martinez said she’s seeing a looming housing shortage. She expects that a recovering housing market will be a source of growth in 2013. A number of economists and market observers already maintain that there's a housing inventory crunch in California, is driving up prices and inducing homebuilders to start nailing two-by-fours together again.