California Unemployment Rate Holds Steady at Record Low 3.9% in December

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A file image shows broken glass on the curb with automobiles in the background. (Credit: iStock / Getty Images Plus)

In this file photo, job postings are displayed on a bulletin board at the Career Link Center One Stop job center Jan. 22, 2010, in San Francisco, California. (Credit: Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)

California’s unemployment rate held steady at the record low 3.9% in December, the state said Friday.

California added 12,600 non-farm payroll jobs during the month, the Employment Development Department said.

Those gains extend California’s record job expansion to 118 months.

The current expansion began in February 2010 and California has gained more than 3.4 million jobs since then, according to the department. The unemployment rate has been at 3.9% since October 2019.

The December job gains stemmed from growth in six industry sectors led by 6,500 jobs in professional and business services, mostly due to scientific research and development and advertising and related services, the EDD said.

The information sector reversed course from November’s leading gains and lost 3,9000, mostly in the motion picture and sound recording sub-sector.

Experts expressed a mix of optimism and concern about the state’s labor picture.

“The underlying strength of the state’s economy is evident,” said Sung Won Sohn, professor of economics at Loyola Marymount University and chief economist at the SS Economics consulting firm.

The final quarter of 2019 exhibited “healthy momentum,” he said in a statement that cited the easing of two major headwinds of the economy — labor shortages and the trade war with China.

Michael Bernick, the Employment Development Department’s former director and a continuing observer of the labor data, noted in an email that the December job gains were below the past year’s monthly average of 26,000.

“We can expect a slower rate of job growth in 2020 than we’ve seen in the past four to five years,” said Bernick, who is now special counsel with the Philadelphia-based law firm Duane Morris. “Most predictions are for job growth in California at the rate of slightly below 2% — healthy but below these previous years.”

Bernick noted that according to Friday’s report there are 757,700 adults who remain unemployed in the state and more that are not counted because they are not actively looking for work.

Bernick said there are workforce mismatches in which the unemployed do not easily fit into current and projected job openings, and California employers have also become choosy.

“They hold out for candidates who have experience in the specific job being advertised, and are reluctant to engage in training,” he said.

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