L.A. County’s unemployment rate hit a record 20.9 percent in May, up slightly from a revised 20.8 percent in April, according to figures released by the state Employment Development Department Friday.
May was the second straight month where the rate topped 20 percent, a level not seen in Los Angeles County since the Great Depression of the 1930s. For comparison, the May 2019 unemployment rate was 4.5 percent.
Nationally, the Bureau of Labor Statistics put the unemployment rate for May figure at about 16.3 percent.
The unemployment data come from a survey of households in Los Angeles County; that survey reported 989,000 people were unemployed in May, a figure unchanged from April. The labor force shrank by 24,000 to 4.73 million, meaning some people have given up looking for work.
A simultaneous survey of employer payrolls reported a net 33,000 jobs being added back to payrolls as sectors of the local economy began to reopen after two months in nearly complete shutdown.
The payroll jobs gain was led by an increase of 18,300 in eating and drinking establishments, followed by a gain of 15,300 jobs in manufacturing and 12,200 in construction.
The government sector posted the biggest drop in payroll jobs in May, shedding 12,200 jobs, followed by a net loss of 7,400 jobs in motion picture/sound recording.
But the monthly job gains pale in comparison to the plunges in payroll job totals over the past 12 months.
Overall, the county posted a net loss of 603,000 jobs between May 2019 and May 2020, a drop of 13.2 percent. The year-over-year drop in payroll jobs was led by a net loss of 241,000 jobs in the leisure/hospitality sector, a plunge of 44 percent. Retail store payrolls fell by 68,000 jobs, while professional/business services reported a drop of 61,500 payroll jobs. No sector reported a gain in jobs over the past 12 months.