The U.S. unemployment rate has dropped to 8.3 percent from 8.5 percent last month according to the Labor Department. Hiring rose in January adding 243,000 jobs, an increase over the 203,000 jobs added in December.
“It’s good to start off the year with that type of improvement especially after so many years of painfully high unemployment rates nationally and of course here in California,” said Dr. Robert Kleinhenz, (pictured at left) Chief Economist for the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation.
Despite the three month uptick in hiring, Kleinhenz believes the nation still has a long ways to go before finding its way back to a normal labor market.
“At 200,000 jobs on average per month, it will take us…I hope you’re sitting down…it will take us about 4 years to get us down to a normal rate of unemployment,” Kleinhenz said.
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On the bright side, employment increased by 40,000 jobs from December to January for a total of 243,000. Kleinhenz hopes that trend continues.
“If we can get closer to 250,000 or get to 300,000 jobs per month, which is more typical at this point in an economic recovery cycle it would take us under 2 years to bring the unemployment rate to a normal level which is around 6 percent,” said Kleinhenz.
While the nation’s unemployment is now at 8.3 percent, California is still over 11 percent. Kleinhenz says that doesn’t mean California is lagging behind the rest of the country.
“The job gains in California relative to the job gains for the nation as a whole approximately equal our share of the labor force in the U.S.. So we’re on a par with the job gains that the national economy is experiencing,” Kleinhenz says.
January employment numbers have not yet been released for California, but the multi-year recovery timeline is similar to that of the nation.
“We had 28,000 job gains in the month of December and at that rate it’s going to take about 3 years for California to get its unemployment rate down to a normal level,” Kleinhenz said.
According to Kleinhenz unemployment numbers will continue to be painfully high through 2012, but improving throughout the year if hiring continues to increase.
For a closer look at the Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers, click here.