State Labor Markets Hit Milestones; Still Catching Up to U.S.

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According to data released this past week, California and Nevada’s respective job markets hit a milestone in February. Total non-farm employment in California has recovered 87 percent of jobs lost during the COVID-19 pandemic recession (in 2020), and Nevada has recovered 98.9 percent of jobs lost.

While Nevada’s labor market recovery — including the revolving door of individuals willing and able to work (the labor force) — is close to hitting 100 percent, it’s been difficult for economists and experts to predict when California’s labor force will fully recoup. California’s labor force now sits at 19.08 million workers, but it remains -320,000 below its pre-pandemic level in February 2020 of 19.4 million.

Over the last 12 – 18 months, workers continued jumping from one occupation or job position to another, or even retiring or just dropping out of the labor force altogether. It’s made for one of the most difficult job market situations in modern history as many large employers and small businesses trudge forward. Meanwhile, local and state health restrictions coming out of multiple waves of COVID-19 cases have also made their impact.

The following are the latest year-over-year and monthly February figures recently released by the California Employment Development Department (EDD) and the Nevada Employment Training and Rehabilitation Department (DETR):

California’s February 2022 Employment Numbers
The California report shows the state’s unemployment rate fell to 5.4 percent in February 2022 (from a “readjusted” 5.7 percent in January 2022). After 21 months, this unemployment rate is down from its 16.1 percent peak in May 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic recession hit the economy.

California employers added 138,100 non-farm monthly payroll jobs in February:

  • California’s labor force (pool of individuals willing and able to work) shot up by 374,700 in February 2022 from a year ago and now sits at 19.08 million. However, it still remains -320,000 below its pre-pandemic level in February 2020 of 19.4 million.
  • California has now regained approximately 87 percent (2.4 million jobs) of the approximate 2.76 million jobs lost during March and April of 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic recession transpired.
  • The total number of Californians holding jobs (non-farm payroll, agriculture related, independent contractor/freelancers) was 18.06 million, which is up 958,300 from the combined total employment this time last year.
  • Non-farm company payroll jobs now total more than 17.3 million. These jobs (a subset of “total” jobs) increased by 1.1 million (6.8 percent) from February 2021 to February 2022 compared to a U.S. annual gain of 4.6 percent. While the state’s year-over-year pace of job growth has more than caught up to the nation’s, California’s outstanding total number of jobs/employment is still playing catch-up in relative comparison to the United States.
  • None of California’s 11 industry sectors lost jobs in February, with leisure and hospitality (+30,400) posting the largest increase (with large gains in limited-service eating places pushing this estimate).
  • Construction’s large gain (+22,100) was due in part to strength within specialty trade contractors.
  • California has enjoyed month-over gains in nonfarm jobs in 12 of the past 13 months, averaging roughly 101,700 jobs gained per month over that time.
  • Of the 678,000 jobs the United States gained in February, California accounted for 20.4 percent of them.

Nevada’s February 2022 Employment Numbers
The Nevada report shows employment in the state is up 126,700 jobs in February 2022 from a year ago (a 9.7 percent increase), but still down by -16,000 jobs compared to February 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic recession hit the economy. It’s a gap that continues closing as individuals re-enter (and also leave) the labor force (pool of people saying they are willing and able to work).

Nevada’s February 2022 unemployment rate stands at 5.1 percent, down from a “readjusted” 5.2 percent in January — but still up from 3.7 percent in February of 2020 (pre-pandemic economy). At one point during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the state’s unemployment rate hit 28.2 percent.

Total non-farm employment (payroll and independent jobs combined) currently stands at more 1.43 million individuals employed/jobs filled — about 98.9 percent recovered from the COVID-19 pandemic employment fallout of 2020.

Overall, Nevada employers added jobs for the 22nd consecutive month in February 2022:

  • Las Vegas-area employment increased by 0.7 percent from January 2022 to February 2022 (month before) and by 116,400 jobs (12.6 percent) since February 2021.
  • Reno/Sparks-area employment increased by 0.1 percent from January 2022 to February 2022 (month before) and by 10,000 jobs (4.1 percent) since February 2021.
  • Carson City-area employment increased by 0.3 percent from January 2022 to February 2022 (month before) and by 900 jobs (3 percent) since February 2021.

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