San Diego County's unemployment rate decreased to 4.2% in December, down from a revised 4.6% in November and below the year-ago estimate of 8%, according to figures released Friday by the state Employment Development Department.
This compares with an unadjusted unemployment rate of 5% for California -- which decreased from 5.4% in November -- and 3.7% for the nation - - down from November's 3.9% -- during the same period.
Between November and December, nonfarm employment decreased by 1,200, from 1,458,300 to 1,457,100 according to EDD figures. Agricultural employment contracted by 800, from 9,200 to 8,400.
Construction had the largest month-over-month decline with a loss of 2,400 jobs. Seven other industries reported a loss, including educational and health services -- down 2,100 -- leisure and hospitality down 1,300, government down 800, financial activities down 600, manufacturing down 500, other services down 400 and mining and logging down 100.
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Professional and business services posted the most significant month-over payroll increase with 4,100 jobs added. Additionally, trade, transportation, and utilities increased by 2,500 jobs and information recorded an employment gain of 400.
Despite the overall decline in employment, local economic experts said that -- adjusting for typical seasonal changes -- the region actually added around 4,200 jobs.
"People should not overreact to the headline," said Lynn Reaser, chief economist at Point Loma Nazarene University. "December typically sees a pullback in such industries as construction and hospitality. Although the report may indicate some red flags, companies' major problem continues to be finding enough workers."
A trend of workers quitting their jobs and staying out of the workforce longer than they might typically otherwise has compounded problems for employers.
"Underscoring the continued demand for employees, temporary help and employment service firms saw further hiring gains," said Phil Blair, executive officer of Manpower West. "The growth in professional services and biosciences and research hiring is encouraging for the San Diego economy since these are high-paying jobs.
"Drops in construction can be attributed to the holidays and the constant effects of Omicron on both vaccinated and especially unvaccinated people," Blair said.
In year-over-year numbers, nonfarm employment increased by 67,600 jobs, a gain of 4.9%.
The largest gainer was leisure and hospitality, with 37,600 jobs added to payrolls between December 2020 and December 2021. Of those, 32,000 were in accommodation and food services.
Professional and business services gained 13,500 over the year, along with 10,800 in other services, 5,100 in government, 2,100 in educational and health services, 1,700 in trade, transportation, and utilities and 1,400 in information.
"Despite a normal seasonal dip in employment, our region continued its recovery from the pandemic recession, with bright spots in retail and professional services," said Daniel Enemark, senior economist at the San Diego Workforce Partnership. "Whether you're just getting a start in the world of work or aspiring to a high-paying career, there are significant opportunities across the labor market."
Employment remained unchanged in mining and logging.
Year-over-year employment losses occurred in financial activities -- down 3,000 -- and construction -- down 1,600.
As for California as a whole, it regained nearly 72% of the 2.7 million jobs it lost in the early months of the pandemic when Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom imposed the nation’s first statewide stay-at-home order in the spring of 2020 to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
The state's 6.5% jobless rate is down from 9.3% a year ago as California added nearly a million jobs since December 2020, the state's Employment Development Department reported.