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LOCAL UNEMPLOYMENT DIPS L.A. COUNTY GAINS 11,000 JOBS DURING JULY.

Byline: Candice Choi Staff Writer

Unemployment in California and Los Angeles County tumbled to its lowest level in three years during July, but analysts say it's too early to tell whether it means the economy has turned the corner.

Last month's state unemployment rate fell to 6.1 percent from 6.9 percent a year ago, said the California Employment Development Department.

But the agency also said firms reported the loss of 17,300 payroll jobs since June, most of them concentrated in the high-tech and telecommunications sectors.

Los Angeles County, however, gained 11,000 jobs over the same period, the state said.

``That's why it's so puzzling,'' said Joe Hurd, senior economist at UCLA's Anderson School of Management. ``There might be some statistical noise in this.''

Jack Kyser, chief economist at the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp., said the loss of 17,300 jobs might be misleading. Those jobs may have been concentrated in a particular sector like the entertainment industry, where major productions suddenly come to an end, he said.

``It's a peculiar pattern - it could be emphasizing certain industries,'' Hurd agreed.

Los Angeles County's unemployment rate fell to 6.2 percent in July from 7.3 percent a year ago. The unemployment rates for both the state and county are the lowest since October 2001.

The unemployment rate is a survey of whether people are working or looking for jobs. Those who are not looking for a job are not counted as being unemployed.

``So the number of unemployed people could go down for bad reasons - they could be discouraged workers,'' Hurd said.

But Hurd does not believe that this is the case for now in Los Angeles County.

The county's construction and service sectors gained the most jobs between June and July, adding 1,300 positions and 1,100 positions, respectively.

And Kyser said gains being made in aerospace employment are encouraging, since they lead to jobs in other areas.

``For every direct high-wage job, we're going to have people supporting it,'' he said.

Other analysts were more cautious.

``What we need to do is look at trends over time,'' said state labor market analyst Brad Kemp. ``I don't think we should get overwhelmed by these numbers.''

Hurd also said he needs to wait another month before drawing any conclusions on whether the economy is recovering.

Candice Choi, (818) 713-3634

candice.choi(at)dailynews.com

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Source: California Employment Development Department

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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Aug 14, 2004
Words:412
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