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California’s job growth lags; unemployment remains highest in the United States

California recorded another month of anemic job growth in April, maintaining the highest state unemployment rate in the nation at 5.3%, the government reported Friday.

Statewide, employers added just 5,200 net jobs in April, down from 18,200 in March, according to the California Employment Development Department.

Nationally, employers created 175,000 jobs in April and 315,000 in March. The U.S. unemployment rate in April was 3.9%.

Major sectors of California’s economy – including manufacturing, information, and professional and business services – saw job losses last month, and job opportunities are not as plentiful as before, even though the number of unemployed people in the state increased by 164,000 over the last one. 12 months.

In California, there were 140 unemployed workers for every 100 job openings in March, according to federal statistics released Friday. Less than two years ago, there were about two opportunities for every unemployed person.

Carol Jackson, an unemployed South Los Angeles resident, says she’s been hitting the streets for months, hoping to put her recent associate’s degree in web management and database administration to good use. But despite sending her resume to at least 100 employers, she didn’t get a single interview.

“I can tell you California is pretty brutal now,” Jackson, 57, said.

Hiring in California lags behind national trends, with one notable exception. The state’s health and welfare sector added 10,100 jobs last month, bringing gains over the past 12 months to about 155,000. That represents 75% of all new jobs created since April 2023.

Hospitals and medical practices have expanded, but the fastest growth has been in outpatient centers, home care practices, care facilities and, in particular, social assistance, which includes vocational rehabilitation and child care services.

“Health care is the big gorilla in the room; it dominates everything,” said Mark Schniepp, director of the California Economic Forecast in Santa Barbara, adding that it will likely continue to grow robustly with new and expanded medical facilities across the state.

Leisure and hospitality companies added 3,100 jobs last month. The gains include employment in hotels and restaurants – despite the added stress employers are feeling following the minimum wage increase to $20 an hour for fast food workers, which took effect April 1 .

Even if there are fears of layoffs in the agri-food industry adopts technology to replace workers, California restaurants benefit from tourism recovery. The leisure sector as a whole is on the verge of fully recovering from the heavy losses caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Public sector payrolls also held up well last month, increasing by 2,600 people. So far, state and local government jobs appear to be suffering little from California’s huge budget deficits.

“But it will clearly be another factor,” said Sung Won Sohn, an economics professor at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.

Sohn and other economists worry about national, cyclical and state-specific threats to California’s employment and broader economic outlook.

Major pillars of the state’s economy continue to struggle.

Film producers and other news employers show few signs of emerging from the hiring slump, despite the resolution of film industry strikes last fall. Los Angeles’ movie theater and recording studio industries lost 13,400 employees, or 12 percent, in April compared to the same month a year earlier. And many workers in the sector say conditions don’t appear to be improving.

Much of the Central Valley’s agricultural economy remains sluggish, in part because of rising costs, tightening financial conditions and lingering climate challenges.

Despite significant investments in artificial intelligence, layoffs have persisted at high-tech companies in the Bay Area and elsewhere. Science and technology companies cut jobs last month, as well as jobs in the computer systems design sector. and related services gradually declined.

Nationally, economists expect job growth to slow in coming months, the result of persistently high interest rates and expected consumer pushback. The outlook is particularly bleak in California.

“On the ground, there are several signs of an even greater slowdown,” said Michael Bernick, an employment lawyer with Duane Morris in San Francisco and former director of the state EDD. Among them, he said, “small businesses continue to struggle across the state against rising prices and tightening consumer spending.”

He and other experts have a similar refrain about the state’s ills: high costs, excessive regulation and unaffordable real estate prices, among other factors.

“We face real challenges here in California that other states don’t face,” said Renee Ward, founder of Seniors4Hire.org, a Huntington Beach-based organization that helps older workers find jobs.

She said the number of jobseekers registered with her service had so far jumped 26% in 2024 compared to a year ago.

California Daily Newspapers

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