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California jobless rate at lowest level since 2008

Posted: May 16, 2014 11:03 a.m.
Updated: May 16, 2014 11:03 a.m.
 

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — In one of the strongest signals yet of a rebounding economy, California's unemployment rate has dipped below 8 percent for the first time in nearly six years, the state Economic Development Department said Friday.

California's jobless rate for April was 7.8 percent. It was last at that level in September 2008, when the rate was 7.9 percent.

Job growth across a wide swath of industries, including construction, financial services, hospitality and mining, led to an increase of 56,100 jobs over the previous month. The health care and education sectors saw the most growth, while information services and government employment posted declines.

Manufacturing held steady for the month, although the number of jobs in that sector declined compared to the same period last year.

The latest unemployment rate was an improvement from March, when it was 8.1 percent, and from the same period a year ago, when California's jobless rate stood at 9.1 percent.

In all, California has added more than 1.3 million jobs since officials say the national recession ended in February 2010.

Despite the improvement, the state's unemployment rate remains above the national average of 6.3 percent and nearly 1.5 million Californians remain out of work.

The positive numbers also can be deceptive, said Michael Bernick, a former director of the Employment Development Department who is a fellow at the Milken Institute economic think tank.

He said the addition of 56,000 jobs for the month does not necessarily reflect what is happening in the labor market. Many employees now work part time, on contract or on a specific project and then move on, he said. That means they lack the stability and long-term benefits of traditional full-time employment.

"It's not the stable, long-term employment," he said. "It's a different type of employment, but it's still counted if you're hired 20 hours a week, if you're hired as a project employee."

The condition of the state's economy and business climate have been major themes in this year's governor's race, with the two Republican candidates criticizing Gov. Jerry Brown and the Democratically controlled Legislature for imposing fees and regulations that drive major employers out of state.

Toyota's announcement last month that it was transferring its headquarters from Torrance to Texas has provided fuel for those who say California is hostile to businesses.

Republican candidate Neel Kashkari focused on less positive aspects of the jobs report, including double-digit unemployment in many inland counties and a manufacturing sector that has lost jobs over the past year.

"The fact that some regions of our state are still facing sky-high unemployment and our overall job situation continues to trail the rest of the nation underscores the fact that, under Gov. Brown's failed leadership, California's hostile business climate is making it hard for companies to create jobs here at home," Kashkari spokeswoman Jessica Ng said in an emailed response.

She said Kashkari would focus on easing regulations and luring manufacturers.

Kashkari's GOP rival in the June primary, Tim Donnelly, did not immediately respond to a request for comment, nor did Brown's spokesman.

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