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Report finds California boasts biggest job gains in the nation

Unemployment in the Golden State dropped 3.6% since last May despite rising inflation and recent hits to the stock market.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) — California continues to push past the rest of the country in recovering job growth from the pandemic’s impacts, starting the summer with more new jobs created in the past year than in any other state. 

National recovery is troubled: inflation hit a 40-year high as stock prices continued to fall and the Federal Reserve imposed the biggest interest rate hike in almost three decades.

According to the jobs report released Friday by California’s Employment Development Department, the state has reduced unemployment rates to the same levels as before the coronavirus pandemic began, at 4.3%. Nearly 17.5 million Californians were employed last month, compared to 835,100 unemployed, a 663,500 decrease from May 2021.

Charts showing June 2022 unemployment rates and job creation in California. (California Employment Development Department)

The report found 42,900 new jobs were created in May, recovering 93% out of 2.75 million farm jobs lost during March and April of 2020 due to the pandemic. The number of jobs in the agriculture industry increased from April by 6,300 to total 420,200 jobs in May, topping last May’s employment figure by 17,300.

“California’s economic recovery continues to make incremental gains, with another month of five-figure job growth and the unemployment rate returning to pre-pandemic levels,” Governor Gavin Newsom’s office reported in a statement.

The governor, who dominated the state primary election this month, touted investments of $178.2 million in tax credits to create more than 7,600 jobs in the space exploration, AI semiconductor chip development and climate change industries. The report from the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development today said tax credits will go to companies that will increase manufacturing in the state, creating thousands of new private-sector jobs.

“Investing in innovation works, and no place does it better than California — solving our most existential challenges with creativity and the technology of the future,” Newsom said.

California also accounted for 11% of 390,000 U.S. nonfarm jobs gained in May and had the biggest year for a seasonally adjusted job increase in the nation last month, gaining nearly 1.5 million jobs over 15 of the last 16 months. 

The information industry saw the biggest boom in May, adding 8,800 jobs, in part due to increases in the motion picture and sound recording industries. While the leisure and hospitality industry suffered some of the greatest losses during pandemic shutdowns, that industry has bounced back from losing nearly one million jobs, gaining 816,900 jobs since April 2020.

Education and health services also added 8,000 new jobs last month. However, the sector with the most jobs in the state as of May — trade, transportation and utilities, at 3.1 million current payroll jobs — saw a loss of 3,700 jobs. 

At 1.7%, unemployment is lowest in coastal and tech regions like San Mateo County, followed by Santa Clara County and Marin County (1.8%), San Francisco County (1.95%) and some inland counties like Placer (2.1%), Sonoma (2.3%) and El Dorado (2.4%). Rates continue to be highest in rural and agricultural counties with Imperial County at 11.4% followed by Colusa at 8.5%, Tulare at 6.5% and Merced’s 6.2%.

Improvement has been steady since January, when about 537,000 new jobs per month were created in 2021 for a record total of 6.4 million new jobs. At that time, the economy was still down by 3.6 million jobs compared to February 2020, when the federal unemployment rate hit a 50-year low of 3.5%.

The newest Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics report released this month said the country’s economy is steadily recovering, but the pandemic continues to impact all industries.

The national number of unemployed people fell by 4.1 million to 6.8 million, and the unemployment rate decreased by 2.6 percentage points in the fourth quarter of 2021. Those unemployed on temporary layoff or for 27 weeks or longer decreased, but both categories remain at higher levels then before the pandemic. The number of people working part-time returned to the pre-pandemic level, and the number of self-employed people increased by 7.8% last year.

Unemployment rates by year in America according to the U.S. Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. (Bureau of Labor Statistics/Courthouse News

The Current Population Survey reported that total employment rose by 5.4 million over the year, to 155.2 million, well below the pre-pandemic level of 158.5 million in 2019. But nationwide unemployment rates for Black and Hispanic citizens remained higher than the rates for Asian and White citizens. Improvements during the second half of 2021 did not “make up for the steep increases that occurred in the second quarter of 2020,” the report noted.

“Today’s announcement is proof that policies like the American Rescue Plan, which Congressional Democrats passed and President Biden signed into law last year, are delivering results for the American people,” said John Garamendi, California’s District 3 Representative in Sacramento, in a statement. “We are climbing our way back from pandemic lows and putting Californians back to work in good-paying jobs.”

Garimendi added he is concerned that “Californians are paying more than ever at the pump and grappling with a once-in-a-generation inflation crisis.” He said President Biden signed his bipartisan bill, the Ocean Shipping Reform Act, into law to crack down on unfair shipping practices “that are driving inflation and raising costs on essential goods for Californians.”

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