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Unemployment rate improves despite loss of local stores

Posted: April 17, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: April 17, 2011 1:55 a.m.
 

Santa Clarita employers shed about 400 jobs in March, due in part to the closure of large book and video stores, officials said Friday.

However, the city’s unemployment rate dropped for the third consecutive month as Santa Clarita continues to rebound from the recession.

Santa Clarita’s unemployment rate dropped to 7.5 percent in March, down from 7.6 percent in February and 7.8 percent in January, according to data released Friday by the California’s Employment Development Department.

The three-month trend echoes across Los Angeles County and the state.

Countywide, the unemployment rate was 12.3 percent in March, down from 12.6 percent in February.

Statewide, the unemployment rate dipped slightly to 12 percent in March, the lowest figure since September 2009.

Santa Clarita’s economy has benefited from the opening of dozens of new shops and restaurants at Westfield Valencia Town Center’s outdoor patios, according to Laura Biery, an administrative analyst with the city.

“Our area is very strong, and recovering much faster than some of the communities around us, like the Antelope Valley,” Biery said. “It’s not like (the city) is going to bounce back immediately, but we are starting to see improvement.”

The city’s labor force fell from 88,400 in February to 87,800 in March. Meanwhile, the number of people employed in the city fell from 81,700 to 81,200 during the same period. Overall, that shakes out to a 0.1-percent slide in the unemployment rate.

The drop is due mostly to the loss of part-time jobs with the closing of two Blockbuster video stores and Border’s Bookstore, Biery said.

Stephen Levy, chief economist for the Palo Alto-based Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy, said nearly 91,000 jobs have been added during the past three months.

“Some of the unemployment-rate decline is likely from people dropping out of the labor force, but much is from people getting jobs,” he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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