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California's Employment Development Department and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released California's February 2021 state jobs report last Friday. Statewide nonfarm employment grew by an estimated 141,000 in February, the biggest gain since June. The official unemployment rate fell from 9.0 percent in January to 8.5 percent in February, the lowest rate since last March. The unemployment rate stood at 3.9 percent in February 2020 before the COVID-19 pandemic caused large-scale upheavals. The survey reflects job changes through the week of February 7 to February 13. California accounted for 37.4 percent of the national estimate of 377,200 net jobs gained in February, more than triple its 11.5 percent of the nation’s total payroll jobs as of February 2020.

The figure below shows how employment has evolved in both the state and the nation since the start of the pandemic. Overall employment in the state as of the middle of February was 9.4 percent below the level of February 2020, considerably worse than the national figure of 6.2 percent. Nearly half of this 3.2 percentage point gap is attributable to the leisure and hospitality sector which includes restaurants, bars, and hotels. California leisure/hospitality employment rebounded strongly in February after two disastrous months in December and January, although it remains further below the November level than its national counterpart does. Aggregate employment in other sectors has recovered at the same slow pace in both the state and the rest of the nation for more than half a year now.

The next figure summarizes nonfarm employment by sector based on the monthly survey of employers. The leisure and hospitality sector discussed above accounted for nearly three quarters of the statewide net gain. The health, manufacturing, transport, and admin/other services sectors also added a fair number of jobs, although only transport is above its level of a year ago.


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