California Employment Report

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Published: March 28, 2017

 Highlights for policy makers:

Unemployment Rate Drops to 5.0%; Total Employment Up 13,800

The Labor Force data for February 2017 (seasonally adjusted; California preliminary) is shown below, along with the change from the prior month:

Seasonally Adjusted California US
Feb 2017 Change from Jan 2017 Feb 2017 Change from Jan 2017
Unemployment Rate 5.0 -0.2 4.7 -0.1
Labor Force 19,155,700 0.0% 160,056,000 0.2%
Participation Rate 62.1 -0.1 63.0 0.1
Employment 18,189,700 0.1% 152,528,000 0.3%
Unemployment 965,900 -2.2% 7,528,000 -1.4%
Source: California Employment Development Department; US Bureau of Labor Statistics

The related not seasonally adjusted numbers (California preliminary), with the change from February 2016:

Not Seasonally Adjusted California US
Feb 2017 Change from Feb 2016 Feb 2017 Change from Feb 2016
Unemployment Rate 5.2 -0.6 4.9 -0.3
Labor Force 19,120,600 0.4% 159,482,000 0.8%
Participation Rate 62.0 -0.3 62.7 0.0
Employment 18,120,300 1.0% 151,594,000 1.0%
Unemployment 1,000,300 -8.8% 7,887,000 -4.0%
Source: California Employment Development Department; US Bureau of Labor Statistics

California Employment Development Department’s (EDD) latest release shows on a seasonally adjusted basis, total employment rose 13,800 from January, while the number of unemployed dropped by 22,000. The labor force remained substantially unchanged with a decline of 8,200.

California’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate continued easing to 5.0% from January’s revised level of 5.2%. California tied with Florida and Pennsylvania for the 15th highest unemployment rate among the states. The unadjusted rate dropped from 5.9% in February 2016 to 5.2%.

Total US employment saw a seasonally adjusted increase of 447,000 from January, while the number of unemployed dropped by 107,000. The national unemployment rate eased 0.1 to 4.7%. The national labor force numbers continued expanding by 340,000, another indication that at least nationally, the economy still has room to grow to get to full employment.

Labor Force Participation Rate Level Eased to 62.1%

California’s participation rate (seasonally adjusted) eased to 62.1% in February, while the US rate rose marginally by 0.1 to 63.0%. The California participation rate still remains near the previous lows from 1976, and well below the average pre-recession level of 65.6% in 2007.

Compared to November 2016, growing business and consumer confidence has seen the national labor force grow by 600,000 and the participation rate by 0.4 percentage points as workers have been drawn back in. In California, the labor force has remained essentially unchanged (net gain of 9,000), while the rate has dropped 0.2 points.

State Employment Growth Rankings - California Drops to 2nd Place Behind Flordia

Change in Employment, February 2016– February 2017
Rank Number of Employed Percentage Change Population Adjusted
(employment growth per 1,000 civilian
noninstitutional population)
1 FL285,200 UT3.9% UT25.7
2 CA253,700 KY3.3% GA18.3
3 TX213,500 AZ3.2% AZ18.1
4 GA143,900 GA3.1% WA18.0
5 NC104,400 FL3.1% KY18.0
6 WA102,500 WA3.0% FL17.3
7 AZ96,700 OR2.8% OR16.5
8 MI83,600 ME2.7% ME16.0
9 MA68,000 ID2.6% ID16.0
10 VA67,000 NV2.5% CO14.9
11 CO64,000 HI2.4% NV14.7
12 KY62,100 CO2.3% HI14.6
13 TN59,800 NC2.3% NC13.3
14 UT56,000 SC2.2% SC12.6
15 OR53,700 TN2.0% MA12.3
16 MD51,600 MA2.0% DC12.2
17 SC48,800 MS1.9% TN11.5
18 NY34,000 DC1.9% MD10.9
19 NV33,500 MI1.8% ND10.6
20 NJ32,100 MD1.7% MI10.6
21 WI31,300 TX1.7% TX10.3
22 AL30,700 VA1.7% VA10.3
23 CT24,200 ND1.5% MS10.1
24 MS23,000 AL1.5% CT8.4
25 PA21,900 CA1.4% CA8.3
US1,485,000 US1.0% US5.8
Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Seasonally Adjusted

Between February 2016 and February 2017, Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data shows the total number of employed in California increased by 253,700 (seasonally adjusted), or 17.1% of the total net employment gains in this period for the US.  In another sign of California’s slowing growth, for the first time since 2012, California dropped to 2nd place behind Florida (which has a civilian working age population only 55% as large as California’s) at 285,200.  Measured by percentage change in employment over the year, California dropped to 25th highest.  Adjusted for population, California also dropped to 25th.

Nonfarm Jobs Increase 22,900

EDD reported that between January and February 2017, seasonally adjusted nonfarm wage and salary jobs grew by 22,900. January's gains were revised up to 15,300 from the previously reported gain of 9,700.

Industries in the table below have been modified somewhat from previous reports to allow tracking as business climate changes occur in the state, in particular potential federal and state budget shifts and the impact of individual policies such as last year’s minimum wage increase. In particular, Social Assistance—which contains roughly 80% IHSS workers funded by state/federal sources and about 10% child care which also relies heavily on state funding—is broken out separately. Accommodation and Food Services are also listed separately. Both industries are heavily affected by minimum wage changes, but Food Services is more sensitive to this policy and has been one of the dominant sources of jobs growth since the recession. Transportation & Warehousing—one of the state’s key blue collar, middle class wage industries—will be tracked to gauge responses to increasing costs through the state’s climate change regulations and recent rules shifts in the South Coast Air Quality Management District.

Looking at the not seasonally adjusted numbers, hiring saw increases in all but three industries over the year. The change in total payroll jobs from February 2016 saw the largest increases in Government (48,200), Health Care (40,300), and Food Services (39,400). Declines were in Manufacturing (-9,700), Mining & Logging (-3,000), and Utilities (-400).

Not Seasonally Adjusted Payroll Jobs Feb 2017 Jan 2017 Change Feb 2017- Jan 2017 Change Feb 2017 - Feb 2016
Total Farm 367,900 361,500 6,400 7,500
Mining and Logging 22,100 22,300 -200 -3,000
Construction 767,000 747,000 20,000 18,700
Manufacturing 1,288,100 1,286,100 2,000 -9,700
Wholesale Trade 735,000 730,000 5,000 18,700
Retail Trade 1,659,500 1,688,500 -29,000 5,200
Utilities 58,300 58,400 -100 -400
Transportation & Warehousing 528,400 530,500 -2,100 20,600
Information 528,300 516,900 11,400 11,500
Finance & Insurance 547,000 547,800 -800 7,900
Real Estate & Rental & Leasing 279,700 279,600 100 6,900
Professional, Scientific & Technical Services 1,238,000 1,226,600 11,400 24,700
Management of Companies & Enterprises 227,500 226,900 600 2,800
Administrative & Support & Waste Services 1,074,800 1,069,600 5,200 5,000
Educational Services 380,500 353,900 26,600 16,900
Health Care 1,476,800 1,476,300 500 40,300
Social Assistance 744,700 739,100 5,600 28,600
Arts, Entertainment & Recreation 291,000 287,200 3,800 3,800
Accommodation 221,600 219,200 2,400 2,800
Food services 1,381,000 1,362,500 18,500 39,400
Other services 563,000 554,800 8,200 14,100
Government 2,561,200 2,537,900 23,300 48,200
Total Nonfarm 16,573,500 16,461,100 112,400 303,000
Total Wage and Salary 16,941,400 16,822,600 118,800 310,500
Source:  California Employment Development Department

By total number of new jobs, California had the highest increase in seasonally adjusted nonfarm jobs among the states from February 2016 to February 2017, at 315,800 or 13.4% of the US net increase. By percentage growth in jobs, California was 13th highest, and by population adjusted jobs growth, 18th highest.

Change in Nonfarm Jobs (seasonally adjusted), February 2016 – February 2017
Rank Number of Jobs Employment Growth (%) Population Adjusted
(job growth per 1,000 civilian
noninstitutional population)
1 CA315,800 ID3.6% UT20.6
2 FL248,800 UT3.3% ID19.0
3 TX222,400 NV3.2% NV17.7
4 NY135,200 FL3.0% WA15.2
5 GA114,000 WA2.7% FL 14.8
6 WA87,900 GA2.6% GA14.3
7 MI82,600 MT2.4% MT13.6
8 NC76,800 TN2.2% TN12.6
9 PA74,000 OR2.2% MD12.2
10 NJ73,700 AZ2.2% OR12.0
11 TN66,100 TN2.1% TN11.5
12 AZ58,200 CO1.9% MO11.3
13 MD57,800 CA1.9% CA10.7
14 MA57,700 MI1.9% TX10.5
15 MO54,000 MO1.9% MI10.4
16 VA53,500 TX1.9% MA10.4
17 CO50,300 NJ1.8% NJ10.4
18 IL47,000 NC1.8% CA10.2
19 UT45,900 NH1.7% NH10.2
20 OH45,400 MA1.6% NC9.7
US2,350,000 US1.6% US9.2
Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics

6 Industries Below 2007 Pre-Recession Job Levels

Source:  California Employment Development Department, not seasonally adjusted; wages are running 4 quarter average from QCEW wage data. 

Comparing the number of jobs by industry in February 2017 (not seasonally adjusted), 6 industries had employment below the 2007 pre-recession levels. In the highest gain industries, Health Care remained the leading industry, followed by the two lowest wage industries (Food Services and Social Assistance) and higher wage Professional, Scientific & Technical Services. Of the lagging industries, three—Manufacturing, Mining & Logging, and Construction—are blue collar middle class wage industries, while the higher wage Finance & Insurance also continued to lose ground.

Job Gains By Wage Level

In the January budget proposal, the Governor identified the increasing dominance of lower wage slots in total jobs growth as one of the key factors slowing state revenues growth. The following chart illustrates this trend, according to the industry wage classification used previously in other Center analyses of this issue. In the chart below, Private sector jobs are shown in the dark green bands, while Government is shown in the lighter. As indicated, nearly one-third of jobs growth over the past 12 months has been in the low wage industries.

Source:  Analysis of California Employment Development Department data, not seasonally adjusted

Two-Tier Economy Persists - Central Valley Unemployment Nearly 3 Times as High as Bay Area 

Unemployment rates (all data is not seasonally adjusted) continue to vary widely across the state, ranging from 3.6% in the Bay Area to nearly three times as large at 10.2% in the Central Valley.

Not Seasonally Adjusted Unemployment Rate (%) February 2017
California 5.2
Bay Area 3.6
Orange County 3.7
Los Angeles 4.8
San Diego/Imperial 5.1
Sacramento Region 4.9
Inland Empire 5.3
Central Sierra 5.8
Upstate California 8.0
Central Coast 7.8
Central Valley 10.2

By Legislative District:

Lowest 10 Unemployment Rates
CD12 (Pelosi-D) 2.9 SD13 (Hill-D) 2.7 AD22 (Mullin-D) 2.5
CD18 (Eshoo-D) 3.0 SD11 (Wiener-D) 3.1 AD16 (Baker-R) 2.5
CD52 (Peters-D) 3.0 SD37 (Moorlach-R) 3.3 AD24 (Berman-D) 2.8
CD45 (Walters-R) 3.1 SD39 (Atkins-D) 3.3 AD28 (Low-D) 2.9
CD14 (Speier-D) 3.1 SD36 (Bates-R) 3.4 AD17 (Chiu-D) 3.0
CD17 (Khanna-D) 3.3 SD26 (Allen-D) 3.5 AD77 (Maienschein-R) 3.1
CD49 (Issa-R) 3.4 SD10 (Wieckowski-D) 3.7 AD19 (Ting-D) 3.1
CD33 (Lieu-D) 3.4 SD07 (Glazer-D) 3.7 AD73 (Brough-R) 3.1
CD15 (Swalwell-D) 3.4 SD15 (Beall-D) 3.7 AD78 (Gloria-D) 3.2
CD48 (Rohrabacher-R) 3.6 SD32 (Mendoza-D) 3.9 AD74 (Harper-R) 3.2
Highest 10 Unemployment Rates
CD01 (LaMalfa-R) 6.9 SD21 (Wilk-R) 5.7 AD03 (Gallagher-R) 8.6
CD03 (Garamendi-D) 7.3 SD35 (Bradford-D) 5.8 AD34 (Fong-R) 8.7
CD09 (McNerney-D) 7.5 SD17 (Monning-D) 6.4 AD30 (Caballero-D) 8.8
CD10 (Denham-R) 8.3 SD04 (Nielsen-R) 6.9 AD13 (Eggman-D) 8.9
CD23 (McCarthy-R) 9.3 SD05 (Galgiani-D) 8.1 AD23 (Patterson-R) 9.0
CD20 (Panetta-D) 9.5 SD40 (Hueso-D) 8.2 AD56 (Garcia-D) 10.7
CD51 (Vargas-D) 9.6 SD08 (Berryhill-R) 8.4 AD26 (Mathis-R) 11.7
CD22 (Nunes-R) 9.7 SD16 (Fuller-R) 9.0 AD21 (Gray-D) 11.8
CD16 (Costa-D) 12.0 SD12 (Cannella-R) 10.8 AD31 (Arambula-D) 11.8
CD21 (Valadao-R) 12.6 SD14 (Vidak-R) 13.7 AD32 (Salas-D) 13.4

6 California MSAs in the 10 Worst Unemployment Rates Nationally

Of the 10 Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) with the worst unemployment rates nationally, 6 are in California. Of the 20 worst, 12 are in California.

Metropolitan Area January 2017 Rate Rank
Danville, IL Metropolitan Statistical Area 8.6 369
Kennewick-Richland, WA Metropolitan Statistical Area 8.7 370
Stockton-Lodi, CA Metropolitan Statistical Area 8.7 370
Modesto, CA Metropolitan Statistical Area 8.9 372
Santa Cruz-Watsonville, CA Metropolitan Statistical Area 8.9 372
McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, TX Metropolitan Statistical Area 9.0 374
Farmington, NM Metropolitan Statistical Area 9.5 375
Madera, CA Metropolitan Statistical Area 10.0 376
Yuba City, CA Metropolitan Statistical Area 10.5 377
Fresno, CA Metropolitan Statistical Area 10.6 378
Bakersfield, CA Metropolitan Statistical Area 11.1 379
Rockford, IL Metropolitan Statistical Area 11.1 379
Yakima, WA Metropolitan Statistical Area 11.1 379
Salinas, CA Metropolitan Statistical Area 11.2 382
Hanford-Corcoran, CA Metropolitan Statistical Area 11.7 383
Visalia-Porterville, CA Metropolitan Statistical Area 12.4 384
Merced, CA Metropolitan Statistical Area 12.6 385
Ocean City, NJ Metropolitan Statistical Area 14.0 386
Yuma, AZ Metropolitan Statistical Area 14.3 387
El Centro, CA Metropolitan Statistical Area 19.6 388

Note: All data sources, methodologies, and historical data series available at CenterforJobs.org


Methodology and Sources