California unemployment rate holds at record low 4.1 percent

November 16, 2018 GMT

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California’s unemployment rate held at the record low of 4.1 percent in October as employers added 36,400 nonfarm payroll jobs, the state Employment Development Department said Friday.

The rate first hit the record low in September after spending months just a notch higher at 4.2 percent.

In October 2017, California’s unemployment rate was 4.5 percent.

The unemployment and job growth numbers continue trends seen over recent years, said Michael Bernick, a former director of the Employment Development Department and now a fellow at the Milken Institute.


“We’ve now had 103 months of employment expansion — the second longest post-World War II expansion, after the 113 month expansion in the late 1960s,” he said in a statement.

Sung Won Sohn, chief economist at the SS Economics consulting firm, said in a statement that the increases were broadly based and show there is no economic slowdown yet in California.

Prosperity in the state has spread, and, while the Central Valley agricultural heartland and the inland Southern California region have not experienced the boom seen along the state’s coast, only two of 58 counties now have a jobless rate exceeding 7 percent, he said. That compares to 11 counties not long ago.

“The word is out that there are good-paying jobs to be had and students, mothers and people on disability are rejoining the labor force,” he wrote.

On the concerning side, he pointed to slowdowns in employment gains in high tech over recent months due to lack of skilled people and the high cost of living, particularly in the San Francisco Bay Area and Southern California. He noted weaker employment growth in software, data processing, motion picture and sound recording fields.

Sohn also cautioned that if trade friction with China persists and increases, there will be a reckoning for California because of its dependence on trade with that nation.

“Once the economy softens and the job market shrinks at some point in the future, the labor force would shrink again,” he wrote.

Bernick noted that the October numbers do not reflect any employment impacts of this month’s deadly wildfires.

The fires and especially the Northern California fire “will have employment impacts in lost jobs, but these impacts will not significantly impact the unemployment rate or job growth numbers, given that our California’s economy now has more than 17 million payroll jobs,” he said.


Bernick said in the short term there will be jobs in cleanup and debris removal, and over time rebuilding in Northern California will bring new economic resources into the region and growth of construction jobs.

The unemployment rate record dates to 1976, when current methodology was established.