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SACRAMENTO – California’s unemployment rate dropped 0.5 percentage points to 8.5 percent in February as the state’s employers gained 141,000 jobs1, according to data released today by the California Employment Development Department (EDD) from two surveys. This comes after January’s downward-revised (-10,100 jobs) month-over loss of 80,000 jobs. December and January combined for a two-month total of 155,400 jobs lost, but February’s gain recovered nearly 91% of that loss. California has now regained nearly 39 percent of the 2,714,800 total nonfarm jobs lost in March and April 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

California’s Labor Market, by the Numbers…

  • California’s month-over unemployment rate improved from 9.0 percent in January to 8.5 percent in February2 while at the same time month-over job gains (+141,000) recovered nearly all of December and January’s combined losses (-155,400).
  • Seven of California’s 11 industry sectors gained jobs last month. Leisure & Hospitality (+102,200) had the state’s largest month-over increase thanks in large part to Full-Service Restaurants. Other Services (+14,100) and Educational & Health Services (+13,000) also had large gains thanks to strength in Personal Care Services and Ambulatory Health Care Services, respectively.
  • Government (-6,000) suffered the largest month-over job loss mainly being due to reductions in Federal Government jobs such as census and postal workers.
  • February’s month-over increase in farm jobs (+2,900) marks seven consecutive months of gains in that category.

1. The nonfarm payroll job numbers come from a federal survey of 80,000 California businesses.
2. The unemployment rate comes from a separate federal survey of 5,100 California households.

Data Trends about Jobs in the Economy

Total Nonfarm Payroll Jobs

This information comes from a monthly survey of approximately 80,000 California businesses that estimates jobs in the economy – seasonally adjusted.

  • Month-over – Total nonfarm jobs in California’s 11 major industries totaled 15,998,900 in February – a net gain of 141,000 jobs from January. This followed a downward-revision of 10,100 jobs for a revised month-over loss of 80,000 jobs in January.
  • Year-over – Total nonfarm jobs decreased by 1,662,000 (a 9.4 percent decrease) from February 2020 to February 2021 compared to the U.S. annual loss of 9,475,000 jobs (a 6.2 percent decrease).

Total Farm jobs – The number of jobs in the agriculture industry increased by 2,900 from January to 423,100 jobs in February. The agricultural industry had 2,300 more farm jobs in February 2021 than it did the February prior.

Data Trends about Workers in the Economy

Employment and Unemployment in California

This information is based on a monthly federal survey of 5,100 California households which focuses on workers in the economy.

  • Employed – The number of Californians with jobs in February was 17,334,300, an increase of 345,600 jobs from January’s total of 16,988,700, but down 1,253,500 from the employment total in February of last year.
  • Unemployed – The number of unemployed Californians was 1,610,200 in February, a decrease of 69,600 over the month, but up by 764,900 in comparison to February of last year.

Unemployment Insurance Claims (Not Seasonally Adjusted)

The following data is from a sample week that includes the 19th of each month: In related data that figures into the state’s unemployment rate, there were 794,348 people certifying for Unemployment Insurance benefits during the February 2021 sample week. That compares to 818,589 people in January and 351,766 people in February 2020. Concurrently, 90,662 initial claims were processed in the February 2021 sample week, which was a month-over increase of 32,285 claims from January, as well as a year-over increase of 55,533 claims from February 2020.