Unemployment increase less than seasonal norm | TheUnion.com

Unemployment increase less than seasonal norm

While the national and state unemployment rate dropped slightly in November, Nevada County’s narrowly increased, although slightly less than the 20-year average of that same period.

From October to November, Nevada County’s unemployment rate rose from 8.7 percent to 8.8 percent, according to numbers released Friday by the California Employment Development Department (EDD).

“It’s very seasonal in nature, and it’s very normal,” said Diane Patterson, an EDD labor market analyst.

That modest increase was much less than normal between October and November, Patterson said. Figures from the last two decades average a 0.3 percent decrease heading into November.

“It normally goes up this time of year slightly,” Patterson said. “Probably the reason it goes up slightly this time of year is construction layoffs.”

Approximately 80 jobs were cut from the mining, lodging and construction segment of the employment market, EDD figures show. November’s 2,210 jobs in that category is 120 fewer than a year ago.

Experts say growth in single-family housing and construction is a good indicator of recovery because those sectors signal increased wealth, relatively high-paying blue-collar jobs and general optimism.

Statewide, government employment showed the biggest losses in Friday’s report, down 34,500 jobs in the last year, indicating an overall decline in spending. The contraction has meant less money for public projects like road construction, said Skip Brown, owner of road contractor Delta Construction Co. in Sacramento.

California’s jobless rate dipped below 10 percent last month for the first time since the recession began. The 9.8 percent unemployment rate reported Friday by the Employment Development Department is down from 10.1 percent in October.

The last time the statewide unemployment rate was in single digits was in January 2009, when the number was 9.7 percent.

The improvement, led by a surge in technology jobs that have spurred a wave of new construction, comes as something of a surprise. Leading economists had predicted that California’s unemployment rate would remain in double digits through 2013.

The number of unemployed Californians dropped to 1.8 million, also the lowest number in nearly four years. The state has added more than 564,000 nonfarm payroll jobs since the economic recovery began in 2010.

About 14.4 million Californians were working last month, and the recovery varied significantly across the state. Imperial County had a whopping 26.6 percent unemployment rate, while rates in many inland counties remained in the double digits.

“The job gains have been fairly widespread,” said economist Jerry Nickelsburg, a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles. “We’re finally seeing an increase in construction, particularly single-family housing.”

He added that such signs are “continued evidence that California’s economy is growing and is recovering.”

While 27,930 jobs were available in the area, 10 more than the month prior, 40 more people joined the civilian labor force for a total 49,880, EDD figures show. Still, the labor force is smaller than it was a year ago, when 50,570 people were in that field. However, the unemployment rate at that time was 9.8 percent — a full percentage point higher than the current rate in the county.

“I would tend to look at that in terms of recovery,” Patterson said. “The numbers are definitely a sign of recovery.”

Some of Nevada County’s recent growth was in the leisure and hospitality industry, which added 30 more jobs.

“Leisure and hospitality has had strong job growth for over a year now,” Patterson said. “It has added more jobs on a year-to-year basis than any other business.”

The onset of seasonal hires was also visible in the November figures, as the retail and trade segment of the market added 40 jobs.

“Next month is expected to show more retail seasonal hires, as well as ski resort hires,” Patterson said.

Despite promising signs of recovery, the danger of a downturn still lurks, most immediately in the form of the impending “fiscal cliff.” Business and government officials have warned that fallout from ongoing budget negotiations at the nation’s capital could halt California’s recovery.

Prospects to save the nation from going over that year-end cliff seemed bleak Sunday as lawmakers fled the Capitol for their Christmas break.

“God only knows” how a deal can be reached now, House Speaker John Boehner declared.

President Barack Obama, on his way out of town himself, insisted a bargain could still be struck before Dec. 31.

“Call me a hopeless optimist,” he said.

Without a deal, automatic spending cuts will slash local government budgets and raise tax rates for workers as the nation struggles to get over the effects of the Great Recession. Also, unemployment benefits for 400,000 Californians would expire next month without an agreement from Congress and the president.

Despite the gains indicating one of the nation’s fastest growing economies, California still lagged behind the national unemployment rate of 7.7 percent.

The Associated Press’ Connie Cass and Don Thompson contributed to this report. To contact Staff Writer Christopher Rosacker, email crosacker@theunion.com or call (530) 477-4236.

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