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An uptick in nation’s unemployment recorded

More people entering the workforce seen as a positive sign

Posted: November 2, 2012 6:12 p.m.
Updated: November 2, 2012 6:12 p.m.

In the final jobs report to be released before Tuesday’s presidential election, U.S. employers added 171,000 jobs in October, and hiring was stronger in August and September than first thought.

More people than usual, however, entered or re-entered the workforce last month — 578,000, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, which experts said may be a good sign that people are seeing more opportunity for employment.

That influx caused an uptick in the unemployment rate as the numbers rose to 7.9 percent from 7.8 percent in September.

Local experts, however, say economic numbers tell us the economy is headed in the right direction at a steady, but slow, clip.

“The economy has been adding jobs year over year at a ‘steady as she goes’ rate, which is reassuring,” said Robert Kleinhenz, chief economist for the Kyser Center for Economic Research at the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp.

In a sign that the private sector is moving forward, all of the job gains have come from the private sector, Kleinhenz said. The government sector is the only major area that saw job losses.

There has been job growth in the construction, wholesale, retail, transportation and warehousing industries, he said. Other higher-paying sectors, including professional, financial and technical sectors, have also been strong performers, a definite positive note, Kleinhenz said.

Job growth in those areas has been up over the prior year, while manufacturing is down.

Job numbers last month highlighted the progress being made on the local front. Unemployment numbers for the city of Santa Clarita fell 1.1 percent over a two-month period in July and August. In July, unemployment stood at 7.3 percent of the city’s workforce. By September, the unemployment number fell to 6.2 percent — the lowest level since December 2008.

Both the state and Los Angeles County dropped to 10.2 percent unemployed in September.

The under-employed sector is a drag on statewide recovery, however, Kleinhenz said. About 19 percent of the state’s workforce is under-employed, compared to the national rate of 14.6 percent.

Spotlighting the county’s economy, Kleinhenz said the situation is looking better.

Considerable improvement has been recorded as the unemployment rate in the county fell to 10.2 percent in September from 12.5 percent in the same period a year ago, he said.

“L.A. County’s economic growth is at a slightly faster rate in the third quarter than the national rate of growth,” Kleinhenz said.

What’s slowing job growth is that the housing market has not yet recovered, finance options are tight and consumer confidence is weak, he said.

The economic lever that will shift the economy to higher job growth is the consumer sector, he said. Once people open their wallets and begin spending more, the economy will see more growth and job gains, according to the economist.

Gains in new home construction, combined with job growth in construction, architectural and engineering sectors, will help the local economy further, Kleinhenz said.

The economy is now seeing slow but steady improvement in residential construction. As more new homes are built, and bought, the buying and building will have a ripple effect on the economy as people begin spending to furnish those new homes, he said.

“It’s a good news-bad news report. We welcome the improvement in the unemployment rates and continue to see momentum. We only wish it were stronger.”



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