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Unemployment In LA Improved In June. But Those Gains May Already Be History

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California’s unemployment rate declined to 14.9% in June after hitting record highs of 16.4% in April and May.

Economists attribute the job gains to businesses reopening and adapting to the coronavirus pandemic, along with consumers slowly easing out of lockdown.

However, current levels of joblessness are still far higher than anything seen during the Great Recession. And because these numbers come from mid-June, some experts worry unemployment may already be rising again, with public officials ordering businesses to close as COVID-19 cases in the state surge.

“I don't think we should assume that things will continue to improve after the June data,” said UC Berkeley public policy and economics professor Jesse Rothstein.

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Unemployment in Los Angeles County also improved, declining from 21.1% in May to 19.4% in June. L.A.’s battered leisure and hospitality sector posted a large monthly gain of 68,200 jobs as bars and restaurants reopened. The county’s retail sector also gained 21,600 jobs in June.

However, other sectors saw job losses as the effects of the pandemic spread beyond the service industry. More than 6,000 government jobs were lost in L.A. County between May and June.

No industry in California has been spared from job losses when comparing current employment levels with those seen in June 2019, back when statewide unemployment was at 4%. For example, L.A.’s professional and business services sector has lost 53,900 over the year.

“Early on, it was people who couldn't do their jobs because of the public health situation,” Rothstein said. Now, he added, “What we're seeing is people losing jobs, not because the jobs can't be done in this environment, but because companies don't have enough money to keep paying the workers.”