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Southern California still 295,700 jobs short of pre-pandemic employment – Press Enterprise


Southern California bosses added 31,000 jobs in December, but the pandemic era’s business limitations and a worker shortage leave the region 295,700 positions short of its pre-coronavirus employment.

My trusty spreadsheet, filled with state job figures released Friday, found bosses had 7.59 million employees last month in the four counties covered by the Southern California News Group. This staffing level, derived from a survey of employers, was up 453,900 or 6.36% in a year.

Please note, this is the final jobs report before annual revisions of employment data of the previous few years — so major conclusions about the job market’s status are challenging to make. But here’s what the December report told us …

History: Last month’s hiring in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties was a 0.4% increase from November, a month with 59,700 new jobs, or a 0.8% monthly jump. The region added  over 12 months. Hiring has averaged a 46,000 monthly pace in the recovery from 2020’s lockdowns.

Full recovery? Despite a noteworthy rebound from the iced economy of spring 2020, total employment is still 96% of February 2020, the last time the economy wasn’t shackled by the virus.

Unemployment: Southern California’s combined jobless rate — this one derived from a household survey — for December was 5.51%, a pandemic-era low, vs. a revised 6.12% the previous month. It was 4.17% in February 2020 and peaked at 17.14% in May 2020.

Split recovery: Employment in eateries, tourism and entertainment is at 835,000 — 88% of pre-pandemic staffing vs. 97% for the rest of the jobs market.

But “fun” businesses — with 11% of local jobs — added 10,400 workers last month or 34% of all hires. The previous month, the leisure and hospitality industries accounted for 4% of the region’s hiring and 14,300 during the rebound.

Here’s how employment fared in the “fun” job market niches in December in Southern California …

Restaurants: Last month, the sector was at 88% of its pre-virus employment level compared with a pandemic low of 56%. Overall, its 598,300 workers were down 82,400 from February 2020. That’s after adding 7,700 in December vs. jobs growing 10,300 monthly in the recovery.

Hotels: 78% of pre-virus jobs vs. a 41% pandemic low. The 75,600 workers are down 21,300 from February 2020. That’s after adding 800 last month vs. jobs growing 1,300 monthly in the recovery.

Arts, entertainment and recreation: 92% of pre-virus jobs vs. a 42% pandemic low. The 161,100 workers are down 13,800 from February 2020. That’s after adding 1,900 last month vs. jobs growing 2,800 monthly in the recovery.

And hiring trends in other key SoCal job categories …

Transportation/warehouses: 120% of pre-virus jobs vs. a 93% pandemic low. The 456,300 workers are up 75,700 from February 2020. That’s after adding 9,400 last month vs. jobs growing 4,900 monthly in the recovery.

Retailing: 101% of pre-virus jobs vs. an 80% pandemic low. The 744,700 workers are up 6,300 from February 2020. That’s after adding 4,400 last month vs. jobs growing 7,400 monthly in the recovery.

Healthcare, personal services: 100% of the pre-virus employment level compared with a 91% pandemic low. The 1,170,800 workers are up 3,400 from February 2020. That’s after adding 3,400 last month vs. jobs growing 5,300 monthly in the recovery.

Business services: 98% of pre-virus jobs vs. a pandemic low of 87%. The 1,116,400 workers are down 23,300 from February 2020. That’s after adding 400 last month vs. jobs growing 6,000 monthly in the recovery.

Construction, real estate, finance: 96% of pre-virus jobs vs. an 89% pandemic low. The 648,200 workers are down 25,800 from February 2020. That’s after dropping 200 last month vs. jobs growing 2,400 monthly in the recovery.

Government: 95% of pre-virus jobs — vs. a 86% pandemic low. The 976,100 workers are down 55,700 from February 2020. That’s after adding 100 last month vs. jobs dipping 1,500 monthly in the recovery.

Manufacturing: 94% of pre-virus jobs — vs. a 88% pandemic low. The 558,800 workers are down 37,600 from February 2020. That’s after adding 3,400 last month vs. jobs growing 1,600 monthly in the recovery.

In SoCal’s metropolitan areas …

Los Angeles County: 95% of pre-virus jobs, down 235,100 after adding 22,000 last month. Recovery pace? Up 25,600 a month. Unemployment? 6.2% this month vs. 7.1% previous month vs. 12.3% a year earlier.

Orange County: 97% of pre-virus jobs, down 52,700 after adding 6,700 last month. Recovery pace? Up 10,400 a month. Unemployment? 3.7% this month vs. 4.1% previous month vs. 7.4% a year earlier.

Riverside and San Bernardino counties: 99.5% of pre-virus jobs, down 7,900 after adding 2,300 last month. Recovery pace? Up 10,100 a month. Unemployment? 5.1% this month vs. 5.4% previous month vs. 8.7% a year earlier.

Jonathan Lansner is the business columnist for the Southern California News Group. He can be reached at jlansner@scng.com



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