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California loses 29,200 jobs in May, a blow to recovery

June 17, 2011 |  7:48 am

Job fair

California's economic recovery stumbled in May as employers shed 29,200 jobs from payrolls, a surprisingly large loss in a state that had been on the mend. The state's unemployment rate still dropped to 11.7%,  from 11.8% the month before, according to numbers released this morning by the federal  Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The numbers follow a slate of bad economic news throughout the country. The nation added just 54,000 jobs in May, and its unemployment rate grew to 9.1%. The previous three months, it had added an average of 220,000 jobs a month. Home prices have dropped in California and the nation to surprising lows as sales slow.

California has the second-highest unemployment rate in the nation, after Nevada, although Nevada's unemployment rate dropped significantly in May, to 12.1% from 14.9% the year before.

California had added an adjusted 14,900 jobs in April, after cutting a net 11,600 in March. It experienced five straight months of job growth from October through February. 

"We do know that the picture is not terribly rosy," said Johannes Moenius, an economist at University of Redlands.

The losses were spread across sectors of the economy. Construction, manufacturing, trade, professional and business services, educational and health services, and leisure and hospitality all cut positions. 

Donna Smith, 23, just received a vocational diploma from Everest College, but hasn't had luck finding any work. She and her boyfriend moved to Salton City to buy a $92,000 three-bedroom house, but the jobs haven't followed.

"I'm looking for any basic entry-level position, but it's kind of hard," she said. "There's not really much."

Los Angeles County saw its unemployment rate slip to 11.9% from 12% the previous month.

Economists say, however, that the state is still in recovery mode, and that some months of job loss are inevitable. The earthquake and tsunami in Japan stalled some economic activity, and the pace of recovery may not be as quick as it had been in the earlier parts of the year. But California still has 87,300 more jobs than it had a year ago, and its unemployment rate is down from 12.4% a year ago.

The latest job numbers are yet another sign that this recovery is going to be a slow one.

"If you try to compare this market to what we remember in 1999, 2000, 2006, it's definitely more sluggish," said Brett Good, senior district president for global staffing company Robert Half International. "But if you were to compare the activity currently versus where we were a year ago, it's an improved market."

RELATED:

U.S. unemployment rises to 9.1% as hiring plunges

Chapman forecast: Economic recovery will continue

April: California's unemployment rate dips to 11.9% as state adds 8,900 jobs

-- Alana Semuels

Photo: Job-seekers line up at a job fair in Anaheim. Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

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