Home Front

A blog about the economy and the Sacramento-area real estate market.

May 22, 2009
The job numbers are out...

   ...and they're kind of confusing.

    California's unemployment rate actually fell two-tenths of a point, to 11 percent. That was the first decline since last June.

     But don't be so quick to celebrate. Steve Levy, an economic consultant in Palo Alto, says the real number to focus on is payroll jobs. And that figure was pretty weak. We lost 63,700 jobs in April, which was slightly worse than the month before.

    He says this is a sign things are still getting bad.

     The unemployment rate, despite its visibility with the general public, tends to get dismissed by professional economists. It's calculated using a relatively small survey of households. The payroll jobs number is drawn from a larger survey of employers, and it has more credibility.

      Sacramento's unemployment number fell six-tenths of a point, to 10.8 percent. The region actually gained jobs - 200 of them - although the gains seem to be mainly seasonal. Agriculture, for instance, added 1,200 jobs.

     Meanwhile, sectors like retailing (minus 900 jobs) continued to retreat.

    One bit of intrigue was the construction sector. It showed no job growth, which isn't particularly good news considering that April is when it should be gearing up. But Diane Patterson of the state Employment Development Department noted that this was the first time since last August that the construction sector in Sacramento didn't shrink.

    Like I said, kind of confusing.

     Here's an early version of our news story, on our Web site. We'll be updating through the day on www.sacbee.com and will have more in Saturday's paper.

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