Unemployment rates remained stubbornly flat in May in San Diego and Riverside counties, underscoring the difficulties of job creation in a limping economy, according to figures released Friday by the state’s Employment Development Department.
Some hiring is still taking place, nonetheless. Walmart just opened a store in Encinitas this week, adding 250 jobs. The 215-room luxury hotel, called the Hilton Carlsbad Oceanfront Resort Spa, is set to open next week, adding a few hundred jobs as well. State Farm Insurance is looking to hire military veterans as agents.
Observers of the local labor market are seeing a pickup in hiring for construction jobs and financial services —- perhaps because of the record low mortgage rates seen as the catalyst for hiring in these dual job areas.
“There is a lot of new homebuilding, and construction jobs,” said Christa Shapiro, regional vice president for employment agency Adecco.
Not all is good news, however. Grocery giant Albertsons announced this month that it plans to layoff up to 2,500 workers at 247 supermarkets in California and Nevada by early July —- with several hundred affected by the decision in San Diego and Riverside counties alone.
Still, said Lynn Reaser, chief economist with Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego, “San Diego’s job market showed a gradual further improvement in May, but companies are remaining cautious in hiring,”
San Diego County’s unemployment rate was 8.8 percent in May, unchanged from a revised 8.8 percent in April but down from the year-ago estimate of 9.8 percent.
Riverside County’s unemployment rate was 11.8 percent in May, unchanged from April, but sharply lower than the year-ago estimate of 13.1 percent.
“San Diego is now showing sizable job gains relative to a year ago across a wide array of industries,” Reaser said. “The job increases in real estate, construction and financial services are particularly encouraging.”
In Southwest Riverside County, Murrieta saw a slight rise in unemployment while Temecula stayed flat.
In April, Murrieta had an estimated unemployment rate of 7.8 percent, up from an adjusted rate of 7.7 percent in April, while Temecula stood at 8 percent, unchanged from April, according to the EDD.
In California, employers added 33,900 jobs in May, the largest monthly increase in the United States. The state unemployment rate dipped last month to 10.8 percent from 10.9 percent in April, but only because discouraged workers left the labor force, according to figures released Friday from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
California’s unemployment rate remains the third-highest in the country, behind only Nevada, with 11.6 percent and Rhode Island at 11 percent. The national jobless rate is 8.2 percent.
“The employment data looks strong,” said Scott Anderson, a director and senior economist with Wells Fargo Securities in Minneapolis, and who specializes in California. “It’s a little surprising that California is slightly outperforming the nation on job creation (33,900 jobs).”
In San Diego County, non-farm payroll showed a gain of 6,400 jobs in May, with much of that rise seasonal. The county though has seen an expansion of 13,400 jobs from a year ago.
EDD has not yet released the numbers of jobs created in Riverside County this year because the county is considered along with San Bernardino when the unemployment figures are released —- something that won’t happen until next year. The EDD treats the two-county area as part of one statistical area for reporting purposes.
Consequently, EDD shows that the non-farm payroll rose by 3,100 jobs from April to May, and up 14,700 jobs from a year ago for the two-county region.
San Diego County was displaying strength in some key sectors, including construction, financial services and trade, transportation and utilities. Hiring for government jobs was the only industry category to post month-over job losses. Local government saw 300 job losses that were offset by job gains in state government (up 200). Employment in the federal government remained unchanged over the month.
Construction reported the greatest month-over gain, adding 1,500 jobs. Specialty trade contractors accounted for more than 90 percent of the job growth n this sector (up 1,400 jobs).
Riverside County saw its largest job losses in the manufacturing sector (1,000). The big gains on a month-over basis came with trade, transportation and utilities. They added a combined 2,300 jobs.
Andrew F. Puzder, CEO of Carpinteria-based CKE Restaurants Inc., worries that a proposed November ballot initiative in California that increases personal income tax on the affluent for five years could run jobs out of the state.
“This will have a negative impact on job creation,” said Puzder, who runs the nationwide chain of more than 3,000 restaurants under the brand names of Carl’s Jr., Hardees, Green Burrito and Red Burrito. “The results (if the initiative passes) are unquestionable. You lower your revenues and people lose.”
CKE operates about 11 restaurants in Southwest Riverside County and 60 in San Diego County, making for roughly 1,775 jobs that the company provides in the region.
Puzder indicated that the governors in Texas and Florida have courted his company to move its headquarters to their states. “We are being lobbied to move to a state with a more favorable business climate,” said Puzder, who also is an economist advising Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in his November bid to be elected. Romney has a strong connection with San Diego County with a home in La Jolla and two children who live here.