California unemployment holds steady in June, job gains slow

California’s unemployment held steady in June as the state continues to recover from pandemic losses, though the pace of adding jobs has slowed as workers take their time rejoining the labor force.

After four consecutive months of adding over 100,000 jobs per month, June saw gains of 73,500 jobs, state officials reported Friday. The state’s jobless rate stayed flat at 7.7%, as an expanded labor force offset job gains. The state’s Employment Development Department revised the May unemployment figure to 7.7%, from 7.9%.

The problem has shifted from a weakness in worker demand to one of supply.

Economist Lynn Reaser

The latest jobs numbers still underscore the economy’s continued recovery after the state dropped COVID-19 restrictions on businesses starting June 15, and as people venture out more into restaurants and theme parks and travel picks up.

California typically added between 15,000 and 25,000 jobs each month, before the onset of the pandemic in the spring of 2020.

The state had 16.42 million jobs as of June. Eight of 11 industry sectors added jobs last month, led by leisure and hospitality, which added 44,000 new jobs. For the last five months, that sector has been the fastest-growing industry in the state, thanks to restaurants rehiring and tourism ramping up.

The construction industry lost the most jobs in June, but some economists said this is likely a temporary blip on the road to recovery, not a trend. The sector lost 3,000 jobs, largely building foundation and exterior contractors, according to the EDD.

Economists said the recovery now hinges more on filling jobs rather than creating them. Workers seem slower to return to the job market than in previous recessions, as the state’s active labor pool is still below its pre-pandemic level.

“California’s job engine made further progress in June, but the problem has shifted from a weakness in worker demand to one of supply,” said Lynn Reaser, an economist at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego.

Los Angeles County followed similar trends. Total employment increased by 28,700 to 4,209,900, and leisure and hospitality jobs led the gains, adding 14,300 jobs.

In June, the county still had one of the highest unemployment rates in the state, at 10.6%, down from a revised 10.7% in May.

Ben Wheatley, head rigger with Bahia Marine, goes below deck aboard a 67' sailboat in Alamitos Bay Marina.

Ben Wheatley, head rigger with Bahia Marine, goes below deck aboard a 67′ sailboat in Alamitos Bay Marina. Wheatley hasn’t really had time off since the pandemic begun.

(Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times)

Nancy Wheatley, manager of Bahia Marine Inc., a sailboat rigging and marine hardware store in Huntington Beach, has been struggling to fill an entry-level job since April. The position is for an assistant to a master rigger — someone mechanically-minded to help a boat specialist on jobs, no experience necessary.

“Normally it’s not hard to get people to walk through the door with an application,” said Wheatley, who typically fills these jobs in a couple of weeks. Her son Ben, the company’s master rigger, has had to do the jobs alone in the meantime.

Over three months into her search, Wheatley is still looking to fill the job: “It’s exceptionally hard lately.”

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