By Perry Smith
Business Journal Editor
Santa Clarita continues to sustain a jobless rate ahead of the rest of its neighbors and the L.A. County average, according to the latest data from the state’s Economic Development Division. The relatively good news for the local job market came amid the release of a scathing report on the department for its handling of the crisis brought on by COVID-19.
The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in Los Angeles County increased over the month to 11% in December 2020, from a revised 10.9% in November 2020.
In Santa Clarita, the unemployment rate was 9.3%, which was helped by city support, as well as the return of filming, which plays a role in not only city revenue, but also as a part of the local economy that contributes tens of millions of dollars, per city estimates.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t all good news from the EDD in January.
An audit of the EDD — requested by state Senate Republicans, including Sen. Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita — found “The economic downturn worsened EDD’s already poor performance,” and even after adding numerous staff, EDD “only marginally improved the percentage of answered calls,” according to a statement from Wilk
Regional job market picture
For Los Angeles County, seasonal gains retreated as every industry sector registered year-over contractions, and was above the rate of 4.3 percent one year ago, according to EDD data.
Civilian employment decreased by 67,000 to 4,365,000 in December 2020, while unemployment decreased by 4,000 to 540,000, officials noted.
Additionally, the civilian labor force decreased by more than 70,000 over the month to 4,905,000 in December 2020. (All of the above figures are seasonally adjusted.)
Between November 2020 and December 2020, total nonfarm employment in Los Angeles County decreased by 23,900 to 4,234,900.
Also in L.A. County, an expansion in professional and business services (+8,800) and trade, transportation and utilities (+7,800) helped offset job losses. Gains in professional and business services were centered on professional, scientific, and technical services (+5,400), while the transportation, warehousing, and utilities (+5,500) made up the bulk of the growth in trade, transportation, and utilities
The city has supported small businesses through both Shop Local and Eat Local, which helps businesses operate outdoors due to current health orders with free permits to do so, according to Jason Crawford, economic development director for the city, as well as other innovations.
“Those that have already received (the permits) are still active and can continue to operate with them, and any business that would need one is encouraged to reach out, and we will walk them through the process,” Crawford said.
The city has done what it can while local businesses have tried to do the same while constant changes in Public Health orders have made things extremely difficult.
In addition, the city is promoting its Safer Business Commitment program, which allows restaurants and businesses in the community to make the commitment to follow safety guidelines set forth by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the L.A. County Department of Public Health.
Problems at the EDD
The auditors’ report revealed an increase in the number of backlogged claims and that rampant fraudulent unemployment claims are now at a staggering $11 billion — and could rise as high as $30 billion, according to a statement from Wilk’s office this week.
“The concern for what is going on at EDD has no party lines. Republicans may have been first to call attention to it last spring, but there isn’t an office in the Capitol that is not inundated with constituents needing assistance,” said Wilk. “This is truly appalling. When future generations look back on the pandemic, the Governor’s complete disregard for the dysfunction at EDD will go known as one of its biggest tragedies.”