California, Bay Area Economic Recovery Still Going Strong

As we reported earlier this week, Freddie Mac recently issued a sunny 2014 forecast for the U.S. housing market but noted that job growth will play a key role in the ongoing recovery. California’s February unemployment report bolsters Freddie Mac’s optimistic outlook here in the Bay Area, with every one of our nine counties boasting lower jobless claims than the state average.helpwanted

California’s unemployment rate dropped to 8 percent in February on a seasonally adjusted basis, down 0.1 percent from the previous month. In that same period, jobless claims across the country rose from 6.6 to 6.7 percent, according to U.S. Department of Labor statistics.

Although California’s unemployment rate is still higher than the national average, the state has bounced back from the recession faster than the rest of the country.

“This is now clearly a solid and sustainable recovery led by sectors with good future growth prospects,” Stephen Levy, director and senior economist of the Palo Alto-based Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy, said in a statement. “After a long and deep recession, the state has outpaced the nation in recovery for four straight years and looks to build on that record in 2014.”

Job gains were particularly vigorous in the construction sector in February, with 14,100 new positions added. Since February 2013, the construction industry has seen employment upticks of 6.2 percent – the largest in the state – in what Levy calls a “triple winner.”

“Building activity creates job in other sectors as well as in construction, most construction jobs pay good wages, and building housing and infrastructure addresses two of California’s key economic competitiveness challenges,” Levy said.

While unemployment increased in some Bay Area regions in February, all nine counties still came in below statewide rate.

Jobless claims inched up by 0.1 percent in Marin, but the county still has the fewest number of unemployed workers in California, at 4.8 percent. Unemployment also grew 0.1 percent in San Mateo County to finish February at 5 percent, the second lowest in the state.

The unemployment rate improved from the previous month in San Francisco (5.2 percent), Napa (6.1 percent), and Solano (7.9 percent) counties.

Job growth was static in the rest of our local counties, where unemployment numbers remained unchanged from January. Santa Clara County closed February with a 6.1 percent jobless rate, trailed by Sonoma (6.2 percent), Alameda (6.7 percent), and Contra Costa counties (7 percent).

 (Photo: Flickr/Brenda Gottsabend)

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