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California Labor Market Expansion Continues Amid Omicron; State’s Unemployment Rate Dips Despite Growth in Workforce in Latest Numbers

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Uneven Recovery Among Industry Sectors Persists 

California’s labor market continued to expand at a steady pace in December, with total nonfarm employment in the state growing by 50,700 positions over the month, according to an analysis released jointly by Beacon Economics and the UC Riverside School of Business Center for Economic Forecasting and Development. California’s growth accounted for just over one-quarter of the nation’s overall job gains for the month. California’s gains in November were also revised up to 52,200 in the latest numbers, a 6,500 increase from the preliminary estimate of 45,700.

While California added jobs at a healthy pace in 2021, as of December 2021, the state has recovered just 72% of all the jobs lost in March and April 2020, and there are now 768,600 fewer people employed in California compared to February 2020. Total nonfarm employment in the state has contracted 4.4% since the pandemic crisis began compared to a 2.3% drop nationally. However, during 2020, California added jobs at a faster rate than the national economy. Payrolls in the state expanded 6% from December 2020 to December 20201, well above the 4.5% increase nationally over the same period.

“Many states have fully recovered the jobs they lost during the pandemic,” said Taner Osman, Research Manager at Beacon Economics and the UCR Center for Forecasting. “Since California is still playing catch-up, we expect to see stronger job growth in 2022 compared to the nation overall.”

California’s unemployment rate fell to 6.5% in December, a 0.5 percentage-point decline from the previous month. However, the state’s unemployment rate remains elevated relative to the 3.9% rate in the United States overall. California’s labor supply has contracted significantly since the start of the pandemic. Despite an expansion of 30,200 workers in December, since February 2020, the state’s labor force has shrunk by 358,100 workers, a 1.8% decline.

Industry Profile

While some sectors have recovered all the jobs lost during the pandemic, in many industries, there are still far fewer workers employed compared to pre-pandemic levels.

  • Leisure and Hospitality led gains in December, with payrolls expanding by 15,000. This is welcome news as the sector still has a long way to go to recover all the jobs it lost due to the pandemic. Payrolls remain down 15.3% compared to February 2020.
  • Other sectors posting strong gains during the month were Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services (8,900), Transportation, Warehousing, and Utilities (7,200), Health Care (4,700), Government (4,100), Administrative Support (3,200), Information (3,100), and Other Services (3,000).
  • Sectors such as Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services and Transportation, Warehousing, and Utilities have been major drivers of job growth in the state, with payrolls up 3.9% and 9.0%, respectively, compared to pre-pandemic levels.
  • Job gains were broad based in December with Retail Trade (-7,300) and Management (-100) being the only sectors to post losses during the month.

Regional Profile

  • Regionally, job gains were led by Southern California. Los Angeles (MD) saw the largest increase, where payrolls grew by 27,900 (0.6%) during the month. Orange County (7,900 or 0.5%), the Inland Empire (4,400 or 0.3%), San Diego (4,200 or 0.3%), and Ventura (1,300 or 0.4%) also saw their payrolls jump. The Inland Empire (84.5%) has experienced the strongest recovery in Southern California, measured by the percentage of jobs recovered since the pandemic lows. The IE is followed by Orange County (73.7%), San Diego (68.6%), Ventura (67.8%), El Centro (65.0%), and Los Angeles (MD) (63.9%).
  • In the San Francisco Bay Area, San Jose experienced the largest increase, with payrolls expanding by 7,200 (0.6%) positions in December. San Francisco (MD) (7,000 or 0.6%), the East Bay (6,400 or 0.6%), Vallejo (800 or 0.6%), and Santa Rosa (500 or 0.3%) also saw payrolls expand during the month. Since April 2020, the pandemic lows, San Rafael (MD) (73.3%) has experienced the strongest recovery in the region, followed by San Jose (72.7%), Napa (63.4%), Santa Rosa (63.3%), Vallejo (62.8%), San Francisco (MD) (61.2%), and the East Bay (58.3%).
  • In the Central Valley, Sacramento experienced the largest monthly increase, as payrolls expanded by 2,500 (0.2%) positions in December. Payrolls in Fresno (2,400 or 0.7%), Stockton (800 or 0.3%), Modesto (500 or 0.3%), Madera (300 or 0.8%), Merced (300 or 0.4%), Yuba (300 or 0.6%), and Redding (200 or 0.3%) increased steadily as well. Since April 2020, Redding (101.3%) has experienced the strongest recovery in the region, followed by Stockton (90.7%), Yuba (83.0%), Fresno (81.2%), Modesto (77.6%), Sacramento (76.2%), and Madera (74.5%).
  • On California’s Central Coast, Santa Cruz added the largest number of jobs, with payrolls increasing by 1,600 (1.7%) during the month. Santa Barbara (1,200 or 0.6%), Salinas (900 or 0.6%), and San Luis Obispo (300 or 0.3%) also saw payrolls expand during the month. Since the lows of April 2020, Salinas (78.6%) has experienced the strongest recovery in the region, followed by Santa Barbara (74.7%), Santa Cruz (57.6%), and San Luis Obispo (56.1%).

The Inland Empire Business Journal (IEBJ) is the official business news publication of Southern California’s Inland Empire region - covering San Bernardino & Riverside Counties.

Health & Wellness

Conquering Hanger: Smart Strategies for Balanced Blood Sugar

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Stay Energized and Focused with These Proactive Tips for Managing Hunger and Mood

Wellness Tips By Sarah Goudie, Nutrition Expert & Guest Writer for IEBJ

We’ve all been there: mornings rushed, constant pivots throughout the day, and suddenly it’s 7 pm with no thought given to food. Looking back on those moments, we all know what we resort to when we’re hangry.

Irritable. Scatterbrained. Shaky. Weak. Reduced impulse control. Tanked.

It’s simply the connection between our stomach and brain, as blood sugar levels can affect the release of hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, the fight or flight and stress hormones.

So, let’s address this blood sugar regulation/hangry cycle by taking care of ourselves in a few different ways.

  1. Prioritize Protein and Fat Before Your Morning Coffee: Your first meal sets the tone for the day ahead. Starting with protein before your coffee or favorite pastry can help stabilize blood sugar levels and provide satisfaction and sustenance. A handy tip: prepare a batch of hard-boiled eggs or protein pancakes on your day off for convenient grab-and-go options before you head out. Trust me, cold protein pancakes make for a quick and nutritious bite on your way to work!
 (Try the recipe below!) 
  1. Opt for Balanced Meals: When you have a chance to eat, even if it’s not your ideal meal, prioritize finishing your protein first, followed by your veggies and fruits. If you’re including simple carbohydrates, save those for the end of your meal. This meal sequencing helps regulate blood sugar levels and mood.

  1. Plan Ahead—Even Days in Advance: Sometimes, waking up 15 minutes earlier isn’t enough to ensure a nourishing breakfast and packed lunch. However, planning earlier in the week can alleviate the morning rush before you start your day. I often create a menu tailored to my work week, carefully considering seasonal foods and my personal goals. While meal prepping is fantastic if you have the time and enjoy leftovers, simply having a plan and doing the shopping can empower you and reassure you that your kitchen is stocked and ready.

  1. Slow Down: The quality of the foods we eat is important (think locally sourced, sustainable, clean), but so is the timing of our meals, as well as our mood and our focus while eating. Be intentional about meal times—sit down, step away from your desk, TV, or phone, and fully immerse yourself in the experience of eating. Many times, we eat quickly without being mindful. If you must eat on the go, find a quiet spot, whether it’s a park bench or pulled over in your car. Take the time to see, smell, and taste your food.

  1. SNACK SMART: This last tip is bolded for good reason—it has been a lifesaver for me countless times. Pack snacks. Every day. ESPECIALLY WHEN TRAVELING. We never know what the day will bring, so we must be prepared when we can’t access a full meal. Some of my favorite go-to snacks include “That’s It” bars, “RX” bars, a handful of macadamia nuts, or Paleo Valley protein sticks…not to mention my favorite reusable water bottle (complete with a straw designed to fit perfectly in my car cup holder). Being armed with snacks containing essential nutrients (fat, carbs, protein, and fiber) will help you navigate those moments when you’re tempted to make a fast food run.


*On the topic of fast food: Stay tuned for next month’s article, where I’ll unveil my top picks for healthier alternatives on those unavoidable drive-thru days!

Leaning into these proactive steps can revolutionize your approach to mindful fuel for your body. Embracing protein-rich breakfasts, balanced meal strategies, proactive planning, mindful eating habits, and smart snacking choices nourishes your body. It cultivates a deeper connection with your food and overall well-being. You can take charge of your dietary journey, one thoughtful bite at a time, and savor the rewards of a healthier, more vibrant life.

Check out my favorite protein pancake recipe!

  • Servings: 6 small pancakes
  • 1 large banana
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil for pan
  • 1 scoop of your preferred protein powder
  • 1. Preheat skillet
  • 2. Blend ingredients above
  • 3. Use the coconut oil to prep the pan
  • 4. Cook till golden brown
  • 5. Serve warm, and add some fun toppings! My go-to toppings are hemp seeds, fresh seasonal fruit, a scoop of almond butter, and a drizzle of honey.
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Career & Workplace

California Continues to Struggle with Labor Supply as Employment Expands Modestly

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State’s Unemployment Rate Remains Highest In Nation

California’s labor market expanded modestly in April, with total nonfarm employment in the state growing by 5,200 positions over the month, according to an analysis released today by Beacon Economics. March’s gains were revised down to 18,200 in the latest numbers, a 10,100 decline from the preliminary estimate of 28,300.

As of April 2024, California has recovered all of the jobs that were lost in March and April 2020, and there are now 314,300 more people employed in the state compared to February 2020. Total nonfarm employment has grown 1.8% over this time compared to a 3.9% increase in the United States overall. California increased payrolls by 1.2% from April 2023 to April 2024, trailing the 1.8% increase nationally over the same period.

The state’s unemployment rate held steady at 5.3% in April 2024, unchanged from the previous month. California’s unemployment rate is the highest in the nation and remains elevated relative to the 3.9% rate in the United States as a whole. The state continues to struggle with its labor supply, which remained essentially unchanged in April (declining by a negligible 100). Since February 2020, California’s labor force has fallen by -246,200 workers, a -1.3% decline. In comparison, over the past twelve months the nation’s labor force has increased by 0.8%. 

Industry Profile  

  • At the industry level, job gains were mixed in April. Health Care led the way with payrolls expanding by 10,100, an increase of 0.4% on a month-over-month basis. With these gains Health Care payrolls are now 13.6% above their pre-pandemic peak.
  • Other sectors posting strong gains during the month were Transportation, Warehousing, and Utilities (3,700 or 0.4%), Leisure and Hospitality (3,100 or 0.2%), Government (2,600 or 0.1%), Education (1,800 or 0.4%), Retail Trade (1,000 or 0.1%), and Wholesale Trade (400 or 0.1%).
  • Payrolls decreased a handful of sectors in April. Construction experienced the largest declines, with payrolls falling by -6,000, a contraction of -0.6% on a month-over-month basis. Note that this decline was largely due to late season storms affecting construction projects across the state.
  • Other sectors posting significant declines during the month were Manufacturing (-5,300 or -0.4%), Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services (-3,600 or -0.3%), Real Estate (-700 or -0.2%), Finance and Insurance (-700 or -0.1%), Administrative Support (-600 or -0.1%), and Information (-600 or -0.1%).

Regional Profile

  • Regionally, job gains were led by Southern California. Los Angeles (MD) saw the largest increase, where payrolls grew by 5,700 (0.2%) during the month. The Inland Empire (2,600 or 0.2%) and San Diego (1,200 or 0.1%) also saw their payrolls jump during the month. However, payrolls fell in Orange County (-2,700 or -0.2%), Ventura (-500 or -0.2%), and El Centro (-2,200 or -0.3%). Over the past year, El Centro (1.9%) has had the fastest job growth in the region, followed by the Inland Empire (1.5%), Ventura (1.4%), Orange County (1.1%), San Diego (0.8%), and Los Angeles (MD) (0.6%).
  • In the Bay Area, the East Bay experienced the largest increase, with payrolls expanding by 2,600 (0.2%) positions in April. San Rafael (MD) (200 or 0.2%) and Napa (100 or 0.1%) also saw payrolls increase during the month. However, San Francisco (MD) (-1,700 or -0.1%), Santa Rosa (-600 or -0.3%), and Vallejo (-600 or -0.2%) experienced payroll declines during the month. Over the past 12 months, Vallejo (3.0%) enjoyed the fastest job growth in the region, followed by Santa Rosa (2.3%), Napa (2.2%), San Rafael (MD) (1.6%), the East Bay (0.9%), San Jose (0.2%), and San Francisco (MD) (-0.8%).
  • In the Central Valley, Sacramento experienced the largest monthly increase as payrolls expanded by 900 (0.1%) positions in April. Payrolls in Yuba (400 or 0.8%), Bakersfield (300 or 0.1%), Fresno (300 or 0.1%), and Visalia (100 or 0.1%) increased as well. However, payrolls fell in Stockton (-500 or -0.2%), Modesto (-200 or -0.1%), Merced (-200 or -0.3%), Redding (-100 or -0.1%), and Hanford (-100 or -0.2%). Over the past year, Madera (5.7%) had the fastest growth, followed by Yuba (4.2%), Merced (3.7%), Modesto (3.6%), Sacramento (2.5%), Hanford (2.4%), Redding (2.3%), Fresno (2.2%), Visalia (2.1%), Stockton (2.0%), Chico (1.5%), and Bakersfield (1.1%).
  • On California’s Central Coast, Salinas (200 or 0.1%) and Santa Cruz (200 or 0.2%) added the largest number of jobs during the month. Santa Barbara (-100 or -0.1%) saw payrolls decline. From April 2023 to April 2024, Salinas (1.9%) has added jobs at the fastest rate, followed by Santa Cruz (1.6%), Santa Barbara (0.8%), and San Luis Obispo (0.5%).
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Banking & Financial Services

Rate Changes are Looming: Follow Long-Term Game Plan for Winning Capital Decisions

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By Greg Martinez-Miller

While basketball fans everywhere are following NBA schedules, business owners are tracking the 2024 Fed meeting schedule. But just as true hoops enthusiasts know that game strategy is comprised of more than three-point shots, so should business owners remember that interest rates aren’t the only factor for long-term success. Last December, the Fed said that it expected to cut rates, which are at a 22-year high, three times in 2024. Yet when the central bank met in March, it left rates unchanged, saying it didn’t want to jeopardize lower inflation and healthy economic growth.

So, when the Federal Open Market Committee meets again on April 30-May 1, anticipation will be high. Prognosticators are on every channel, wondering whether the central bank will keep its 5.25-5.5% target rate unchanged again, or if it will announce the first of its three cuts. And if it does, observers ask, how could lower rates impact growth in the U.S. economy? 

As a commercial banker who has watched the interest rate scoreboard over the past 16 years, here’s my advice from the sidelines: Stick to your long-term game plan. Put your company in a position to win the balance-sheet game when it comes to the cost of capital.

Here are my four key strategies from my dogeared playbook to keep your head in the game:

1. See the court

Do not focus on interest rates alone for your capital strategy. You need to be aware of other negotiated factors when funding your company’s financial future. Besides interest rates, other terms — loan maturity, advance rates, and guarantees — can offer important value. Many times, it makes good strategic sense to pivot from the interest rate toward other terms to advance your company’s medium- and long-term game plan.

2. Do not overreact to the officials

The Fed is like an economic referee, making calls to control the economy’s pace. Do not lose your cool when the whistle blows. Three rate reductions are still expected this year, but when the central bank plans to make that call, no one knows – yet.

3. Manage the clock

Think about timing when it comes to borrowing. When rates dip, you might consider making a few key borrowing moves to fund some crucial projects and wait to fund other projects later in the game. Consider the purpose of the debt on your balance sheet. Would your company benefit from having a mix of floating and fixed rates? This may allow you to hedge and still potentially benefit from low floating rates, while also maintaining certainty for longer-term, fixed rates.

4. Stick with your game plan

When rates do change, do not throw out your playbook. Instead, call a time out and consult with your banker or interest rate risk advisor to help ensure your borrowing decisions match your company’s long-term plans and goals for continued growth and success.

If you do not need capital, do not borrow just to lock in a lower rate. Interest rates should not be the driving factor when making borrowing decisions. Borrow when you need to; have a good reason for it.

Remember, interest rate changes will always interrupt the flow of your game. But your goal is to ensure that your financial future is deliberate – not purely defensive, based on the ebb and flow of interest rates.

Greg Martinez-Miller is the commercial banking leader for Wells Fargo in Inland Empire. Based in Ontario, Martinez-Miller leads a team of commercial relationship managers in Riverside and San Bernardino Counties. The views expressed present the opinions of the author on prospective trends and related matters in middle market banking trends as of this date, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Wells Fargo & Co., its affiliates and subsidiaries.

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