California Unemployment Rate Falls to 8 Percent

San Francisco, San Mateo and Marin counties posted the state's lowest unemployment rates last month

California's unemployment rate dropped to 8 percent in February, as a net gain of 58,000 positions prolonged steady improvement in the job market, state officials reported Friday.

The jobless figure was down slightly from January but remains well above the national average of 6.7 percent. California's 7.9 percent unemployment rate in September 2008 was the last time it fell below 8 percent.

The latest numbers came from separate surveys of employers and 5,500 households.

The state Employment Development Department reported that California businesses added 61,600 nonfarm jobs in February, with a quarter of those positions in health care and education.

The increase followed a bleak January report showing there were 32,000 fewer jobs in the state, even though unemployment ticked down to 8.1 percent.

The unemployment rate in California was 9.4 percent in February 2013.

Since then, the fastest growing sectors have included professional and business services, with 92,800 new jobs, and construction, adding 38,800 jobs.

Other sectors that added jobs included trade, transportation and utilities, information, pleasure and hospitality, government, and other services.

Manufacturing posted the largest decrease last month, losing 2,600 jobs in a month. The sector's year-over-year net job loss is 1,900.

The recent figures account for seasonal swings in employment expected after the holidays.

California now has 1.5 million unemployed residents, or 245,000 less than a year ago. The labor force, which does not include people who have stopped looking for work, has stayed about 18.6 million in that period.

The employment department reported that 1.2 million new jobs have been created in California since the economic recovery began in February 2010. The unemployment rate was then 12.4 percent.

San Francisco, San Mateo and Marin counties posted the state's lowest unemployment rates last month, hovering around 5 percent. Rural Imperial and Colusa counties have jobless rates above 20 percent.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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