Los Angeles County’s unemployment rate fell to 15.1 percent in September from a revised 16.4 percent in August, gaining nearly 38,000 jobs as the school year began and parts of the economy continued to reopen.

The state Employment Development Department reported that roughly 43,000 previously unemployed residents reported they had returned to work.

But that news was tempered by figures showing the size of the county's labor force decreased by 21,000 to about 4.9 million. When the labor force declines, it usually indicates people have given up looking for work.

Even with the county’s unemployment rate falling, it's still more than four percentage points above the statewide 11 percent for September and almost double the 7.9 percent nationwide rate, meaning that L.A. County continues to lag the state and nation in the recovery from the lockdown.

And, of course, the September unemployment rate is far above the near record-low 4.3 percent recorded in the same month last year.

In terms of job gains, local government education payrolls showed an increase of 18,200 as the first full month of the academic year got underway. Unlike in previous years, most of the education hires took place against a backdrop of distance online instruction.

The other sector posting a significant net gain in payroll jobs in September was food services and drinking places, which rose by 11,200 jobs as restaurants continued to reopen with outdoor dining.

The only sectors to lose jobs in September were motion picture/sound recording and real estate rental and leasing-related financial activities, each of which shed a net of about 1,000 jobs.

Not surprisingly, the leisure/hospitality sector recorded the biggest drop in payroll jobs between September of last year and September of this year, falling by 165,000. 

Eating and drinking establishments accounted for 104,000 of those jobs lost. Retail stores posted a net drop of 23,400 payroll jobs over those 12 months, with 10,000 of that drop coming from clothing stores.