The Breakdown | Explaining Southern California's economy
Business & Economy

Construction helps California lead nation in job creation in August



 A job seeker fills out an application during a career fair at the Southeast Community Facility Commission on May 21, 2014 in San Francisco
A job seeker fills out an application during a career fair at the Southeast Community Facility Commission on May 21, 2014 in San Francisco
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

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California employers added 44,200 jobs in August, the largest gain of any state in the country. The state's unemployment rate stood still at 7.4 percent, compared to 6.1 percent nationwide.

"When the national numbers came out for August, and we saw a significant slowdown in job creation, we were a little bit concerned that we'd see the same thing happening here," said economist Kimberly Ritter-Martinez of the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation. "But in California, we stayed pretty much on track, outpacing the nation in terms of job creation." 

The construction sector was a huge contributor to California's job growth in August, with a gain of 13,600 jobs.  The other sectors with large gains were Education/Health Services (+12,200), and Professional/Business Services (+10,600). 

"We've been seeing steady increases in construction employment for some time, but it has been a slow steady increase," said Tom Holsman, CEO of the Associated General Contractors of California.

"Recent increases are attributable to many projects that have been in the early stages of startup gaining momentum," Holsman added, citing LA County Metro transit projects and the new Wilshire Grand Hotel construction project as local examples.

In Los Angeles County, the unemployment rate also stayed flat at 8.1 percent, but it remains far lower than the 9.9 percent of August of 2013. In the last twelve months, the L.A. County Metro area has gained 6,600 construction jobs, a rate of 5.6 percent.

Ritter-Martinez, of the LAEDC says other economic indicators support a boost in construction jobs at the Los Angeles and statewide levels: permits for new housing construction, remodeling, and non-residential construction are all on the rise. 

"Builders and developers are reporting that they're having trouble finding some skilled labor for construction," Ritter-Martinez said. "It's taken so long for that sector to come back, a lot of construction people have gone off and found other kinds of jobs or moved out of the region." 

In Orange County, the unemployment rate was 5.4 percent, down from 5.7 percent in July. The unemployment rate in the Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario area was 8.7 percent in 
August 2014, down from a revised 9.3 percent in July 2014.