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UNEMPLOYMENT RATE CONTINUES FALL.

Byline: Dave Melendi Staff Writer

Unemployment in Los Angeles County and in California continued its slight downward trend in April, bucking a national jobless trend, according to figures released Friday.

Local economists were encouraged by the reports, but cautioned against drawing any far-reaching conclusions.

``One of the reasons it declined in April is because March was revised up,'' said Tom Lieser, senior economist with the UCLA Anderson Forecast.

The seasonally adjusted county unemployment rate was down a tenth of a percent from a revised 6.9 percent in March. A year ago, the unemployment rate was 5.3 percent in Los Angeles County.

Statewide, the figures fell a tenth of a percent as well, from 6.5 percent in March to 6.4 percent in April. A year ago 5 percent of the state's labor force was unemployed. Nationwide, unemployment stood at 6 percent in April, 5.7 percent in March and 4.5 percent a year ago.

``The direction is encouraging in that we have sort of closed the gap with the nation in the last month, but the bad news here is that the payroll part of this report shows that California is still losing jobs,'' Lieser said.

The job losses were concentrated on the goods side of the economy, with the manufacturing, construction and apparel industries being hit hard.

``The biggest loss in this report was in construction jobs,'' Lieser said. ``That's a little bit surprising because that's been strong and there's been a pretty good pace of home sales.''

The report showed a jump in state and local government jobs, which Lieser suspected was a rise in the number of schoolteachers.

``I don't think anything else is growing in government,'' he said. ``When you see an increase in local government, it means school teachers.''

Lieser said the figures paint an incomplete picture that will be filled in over the next few months as college graduates enter the work force and the unemployment rate will be challenged by upward pressure.

He expects the rate to remain about the same for several months, then dip in the second half of the year.

``We may or may not have turned the corner,'' he said. ``I think fundamentally what you've got is we are still seeing some modest job losses.''

Jack Kyser, chief economist of the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp., said the unemployment report showed some good signs, but that it should be taken with a grain of salt.

``We have to watch and see what happens next month because traditionally they do a revision on these numbers,'' Kyser said. ``Even though they try to adjust for seasonality, they tend to bounce a little bit.''
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Statistical Data Included
Date:May 11, 2002
Words:447
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