Unemployment rate falls despite fewer total jobs

By SIMON AVERY, The Associated Press
Monday June 17, 2002

LOS ANGELES — Fewer Californians were looking for work last month and that pushed down the unemployment rate, not an increase in jobs, according to state employment officials. 

The jobless rate decreased to 6.3 percent from 6.5 percent in April, even as the state economy lost 9,000 jobs, according to the state Employment Development Department. 

With the construction and manufacturing industries losing 14,600 jobs last month, the state unemployment rate remained well above the national average of 5.8 percent. 

The number of people looking for work in California declined in May to 1.1 million, 57,000 fewer than in April. 

The jobless rate a year ago was 5.1 percent. 

Despite the decline in jobs, the EDD forecast that the unemployment rate will stabilize in the months ahead, moving up or down by no more than three-tenths of a percent. 

“The job losses we’ve seen earlier this year have leveled off,” EDD Director Michael Bernick said Friday. 

But Brad Williams, senior economist in the Legislative Analysts’ Office, called the latest numbers disappointing. 

“The question is whether the economy is lifting out of recession or drifting along,” he said. 

With EDD’s survey of employers showing a decline of 9,000 jobs last month and a separate EDD survey of households showing 27,000 fewer Californians holding jobs in May than April, the economy is clearly drifting, Williams said. 

One of the most significant changes registered in May was the decline in Silicon Valley’s jobless rate. In Santa Clara County, joblessness fell to 7.1 percent from 7.6 percent. In San Francisco Country it declined to 6.3 percent from 6.8 percent. 

However, the decrease was largely due to people leaving the region, rather than job growth, Bernick said. 

Parts of Southern California continued to show healthy job activity. The jobless rate stood at 3.6 percent in Orange County and 3.7 percent in San Diego County. 

In Northern California, where the hospitality industry continues to feel the effects of Sept. 11, job seekers with the greatest flexibility are having the most success. 

“Things have been looking a little better,” said Katherine Field of the Oakland Career Center. “We’re still seeing a huge amount of unemployed in Oakland.