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Unemployment In LA Rises To Nearly 21 Percent

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Closed storefronts in Los Angeles's fashion district. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)
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California's unemployment rate for May was 16.3% according to new numbers released Friday by the state's Employment Development Department (EDD).

The state's unemployment rate remains much higher than during any past recession on record. But it actually ticked down slightly from April's revised figure of 16.4%.

Jobs in food service and manufacturing began picking up again. Construction posted the largest gains.

"Those sectors that reopened early on are doing the best," said employment attorney and former EDD director Michael Bernick.

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However, government employment in California declined dramatically as state and local budgets were squeezed by declining revenues related to business closures. The state's public sector lost 95,800 jobs over the month.

In Los Angeles County, unemployment increased slightly from 20.8% in April to 20.9% in May. The L.A. area has been slower to reopen than other parts of the state, and its economy relies heavily on industries that have been hit hard, such as hotels and entertainment.

Paul Ong, director of the UCLA Center for Neighborhood Knowledge, said many immigrants and workers of color are not receiving unemployment benefits. As they start to run out of money, Ong said the ripple effects will be felt throughout the local economy.

"We will face problems with property owners not being able to keep up with a mortgage," Ong said. "We certainly will face problems of renters being evicted, we will probably face problems in terms of homelessness."

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