The provision of fun once again fueled the pandemic-era job recovery in Southern California, with nearly half of the hiring in May coming from the recreational and hospitality industries previously hammered by stay-at-home jobs and reluctance to travel .
My trusted spreadsheet, populated with the state’s job numbers, found that local chiefs had 7.28 million employees in the four counties covered by the Southern California News Group for the past month. That’s an increase of 69,700 in a month from 69,400 new hires in April and an average hiring rate of 50,100 per month in last year’s recovery.
The reopening of various limited capacity attractions helped fuel another hiring frenzy in Southern California as most of the coronavirus-related business restrictions were relaxed or lifted. California reopened almost entirely on June 15th.
The latest hires brought the unemployment rate in Southern California down to 8.7% in May, from a revised 9.44% in the previous month. But it’s still a long way from 4.2% from February 2020, the last time the economy wasn’t tied up by the virus. The peak of the pandemic era was 17.1% in May 2020.
In addition, the region has seen a severely divided rebound in employment, with employment falling behind in restaurants, tourism and entertainment. These “fun” companies employed 746,100 people last month – 78% of the pre-pandemic workforce compared to 94% for the rest of the economy.
But the “fun” businesses are coming back. They may only have 10% of the local jobs, but âfunâ employers hired 32,200 workers or 46% of the new hires in the area last month. In the past four months, âhaving funâ has been associated with 54% of all new hires.
So employment in the “fun” niche market in May in Southern California developed …
Restaurants: Last month, 81% of the pre-virus employment rate was reached – 128,000 fewer than in February 2020. That is after adding 13,000 last month. In this recovery, jobs grew an average of 12,200 per month over the past year.
Hotels: 65% of pre-virus jobs – 33,800 fewer after adding 6,200 last month. Rebound average? Up to 1,000 per month.
Art, entertainment and recreation: 74% of pre-virus jobs – 44,600 fewer after adding 13,000 last month. Rebound average? Up to 2,000 per month.
And hiring trends in other major SoCal job categories …
Transport / storage: 108% of pre-virus employment – 32,100 more than in February 2020. That is after adding 2,600 last month. In this recovery, the number of jobs grew an average of 4,300 per month over the past year.
Healthcare, Personal Services: 99% of pre-virus levels – 13,700 fewer after adding 7,400 last month. Rebound average? 6,700 more per month.
Construction, real estate, finance: 96% of pre-virus jobs – 25,800 fewer after adding 300 in the last month. Rebound average? Up to 3,600 per month.
Retail trade: 94% of jobs before the virus – 45,400 fewer after losing 200 in the last month. Rebound average? Up to 7,400 per month.
Business services: 94% of jobs before the virus – 64,200 fewer after adding 7,200 in the last month. Rebound average? Up to 6,100 per month.
Government: 93% of pre-virus jobs – 74,200 fewer after adding 8,300 last month. Rebound average? 3,500 less a month.
Manufacturing: 92% of pre-virus jobs – 49,000 fewer after adding 5,700 last month. Rebound average? Up to 1,500 a month.
In the metropolitan areas of SoCal …
Los Angeles County: At 91% of pre-virus jobs – still 434,000 fewer in the pandemic era, even after adding 41,000 last month. Rebound average? Up to 24,200 per month. Unemployment? 10.1% compared to 11.2% the previous month.
Orange County: 93% of pre-virus levels – or a loss of 113,100 after adding 19,100 last month. Rebound average? Up to 11,300 per month. Unemployment? 5.9% compared to 6.2% the previous month.
Counties of Riverside and San Bernardino: 96% of pre-virus levels – or a 63,500 loss after adding 9,600 last month. Rebound average? Up to 11,100 per month. Unemployment? 7.2% vs. 7.5% previous month.
Jonathan Lansner is a business columnist for the Southern California News Group. He can be reached at [email protected]