Saturday, November 18, 2006

More On Los Angeles Times Unemployment Coverage!

My last post on this subject was about how the LA Times' online edition yesterday put an insanely negative spin on one of the most positive economic stories I can ever recall about the strength of Los Angeles County economy. Fortunately in this morning's print edition, the story was considerably fleshed out and a lot more perspective was given to this amazing story:

Joblessness in California at record low
Unemployment falls to 4.5% in October as the state's labor market mirrors the country's. Growth in tourism and healthcare are credited.
By Lisa Girion
Times Staff Writer

November 18, 2006

California's unemployment rate dropped to a record low of 4.5% in October, the state said Friday, reflecting what experts say is one of the tightest job markets in years.

The jobless rate was down from 4.8% in September and the lowest since the government started tracking it in 1976, the state Employment Development Department said.

The California job picture mirrors a tightening of the labor market nationwide — reflecting a solid economy in the fifth year of an expansion. The healthcare needs of an aging population, along with a continuing boom in tourism, are helping to fuel the state's employment growth.

The improving job market in California extends across a wide range of industry sectors and occupational categories, from low-skilled workers to professionals, experts said.

"Everybody is complaining that they can't find good skilled workers, and I've never seen so many help-wanted signs every place you go," said Jack Kyser, chief economist for the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp.

One Monrovia retailer, who asked not to be named, has filled jobs by word of mouth for decades but said she resorted to placing her first online ad last month. Another employer looking for general help belied exasperation in a recent newspaper classified ad that summed up the labor market:

"I'M GOING CRAZY!!!! More work than staff. No experience necessary."

Later, the article goes into despite the housing construciton slump - which was the focus of the first article, almost every other sector of the econmoy is thriving:

Economists expect the unemployment rate to stay below 5% for some time, repeating the pattern of the late 1990s, when the tech boom led to labor shortages in high-skilled, computer-related jobs. This time, tightness is developing in such sectors as healthcare, skilled manufacturing and trucking, recruiters and economists said.

Outside the slowing housing market, things aren't so bad, they said. "If there weren't a housing slowdown now, you'd have a labor shortage," said John Husing, a Redlands-based economic development advisor.

The decline in construction jobs — down 4,000 in October from a year earlier — has been more than offset by growth in the state's service sector, including tourism, education and healthcare.

"They are all growing for different reasons, but they are all growing," said Keitaro Matsuda, senior economist for Union Bank of California. "They are propelling the California economy forward now."

And Mark Lacter over at the business section of LAOBSERVED, puts this story into an even better perspective on the meaning of this plunge in joblessness in LA County:

L.A. unemployment plunges

That's right, plunges - October joblessness was 4.3 percent, down from 4.8 percent in September and 5 percent from a year earlier. It's certainly the lowest unemployment rate I can ever remember for L.A. County and again reflects an economy that's in very good shape (so much for the fears about a real estate recession). L.A. County added 17,400 jobs for the month, much of the growth coming from government (education jobs were a big part of the gain). The county jobless number came in below the state's 4.5 percent and the U.S. rate of 4.4 percent. The local numbers are especially striking because L.A. is a very large, urban economy that's faced with ills not seen in low unemployment areas like OC. I realize economic number stories seem kind of boring, but this is a big deal.

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