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Pace of unemployment slowing

Some companies are starting to hire, others choosing not to trim staff, according to experts on the labor market.

June 10, 2009|By Zain Shauk

New national unemployment figures released Friday reflect a trend seen locally — the days of sweeping job cuts may be ending, experts say.

Although unemployment figures rose nationally in May — from 8.9% to 9.4% — only 345,000 jobs were lost nationwide, about half the average over the last six months, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

The change was largely a result of a slowing pace of job cuts, which appears to have also occurred in Glendale and Burbank, experts said.

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Job losses were on the rise at the start of the year as the closure of large businesses, like Mervyn’s and Circuit City, helped drive numbers up.

In addition to cutbacks at local businesses like Yahoo, Warner Bros. and Disney, which resulted in hundreds of lost jobs, fewer businesses have elected to make extensive staffing reductions in recent months, experts said.

“The number of large company layoff announcements locally has dropped off pretty severely compared to around the last quarter of 2008 and first quarter of 2009, because during that period we were seeing pretty large company layoff notices, at least one maybe every two weeks, and now that’s not the case at all,” said Don Nakamoto, labor market specialist for the Verdugo Workforce Investment Board.

The result was reflected in the most recent unemployment data for Glendale and Burbank, collected in April. Jobless rates fell from 9.2% to 8.7% in Burbank and from 9.9% to 9.4% in Glendale, according to the state Economic Development Department.

Unemployment figures for May in Glendale and Burbank were not available.

The most recent changes in local unemployment rates were part of a countywide slowing of job losses, said Juan Millan, labor market consultant for the department.

Los Angeles County’s unemployment rate fell in April for the first time since December 2007, and several industries added jobs, Millan said.

That trend could continue as fewer businesses appear to be trimming staffs and as others start to hire more workers, Millan said.

One key indicator may be growth in the number of people getting work through employment agencies, which employed 15,000 more workers in April, he said.

“Overall, more jobs are being lost, but you’re seeing gains in little areas that are highly sensitive,” he said. “They are areas that are first to change when there’s a turnaround.”

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