California jobless rate at lowest level since 2008

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — In one of the strongest signals yet of a rebounding economy, California's unemployment rate has dipped below 8 percent for the first time in nearly six years, the state Economic Development Department said Friday.

California's jobless rate for April was 7.8 percent. It was last at that level in September 2008, when the rate was 7.9 percent.

Kern County's rate, which has not been seasonally adjusted, was 11.4 percent in April.

Bakersfield's unemployment rate was 7.9 percent, but some smaller Kern County cities, such as Arvin and Delano, registered unemployment rates around 30 percent.

Job growth across a wide swath of industries, including construction, financial services, hospitality and mining, led to an increase of 56,100 jobs over the previous month. The health care and education sectors saw the most growth, while information services and government employment posted declines.

Manufacturing held steady for the month, although the number of jobs in that sector declined compared to the same period last year.

The latest unemployment rate was an improvement from March, when it was 8.1 percent, and from the same period a year ago, when California's jobless rate stood at 9.1 percent.

In all, California has added more than 1.3 million jobs since officials say the national recession ended in February 2010.

Despite the improvement, the state's unemployment rate remains above the national average of 6.3 percent and nearly 1.5 million Californians remain out of work.

The positive numbers also can be deceptive, said Michael Bernick, a former director of the Employment Development Department who is now a fellow at the Milken Institute economic think tank.

He said the addition of 56,000 jobs for the month does not necessarily reflect what is happening in the labor market. Many employees now work part time, on contract or on a specific project and then move on, he said. That means they lack the stability and long-term benefits of traditional full-time employment.

"It's not the stable, long-term employment," he said. "It's a different type of employment, but it's still counted if you're hired 20 hours a week, if you're hired as a project employee."

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KBAK/KBFX Eyewitness News contributed to this report.