The unemployment rate across Los Angeles County, including Long Beach, ticked back down in March after two consecutive months of increases, according to data from the California Employment Development Department.

The rate in both Long Beach and across the county reached a recent low of 4.4% in December, but it creeped back up to 5.2% and 5.3%, respectively, over the first two months of the year. According to data released late last week, however, both unemployment rates dropped slightly to 5%—just shy of the statewide rate of 4.8%, which was unchanged from February.

“Given the adverse weather last month, it’s difficult to get a true read on how California’s labor market actually performed,” Taner Osman, research manager at Beacon Economics, said in a statement. “Interestingly, while labor markets in inland communities had been outperforming coastal communities since the start of the pandemic, we are now starting to see these differences level out, with stronger job growth in some coastal communities.”

In Long Beach, the labor force decreased by 400 jobs to 232,700, as did the number of unemployed residents, by 700 to 11,500. The number of employed residents, meanwhile, increased by 300 to 221,200.

The positive shift came just before mass layoffs at Virgin Orbit, which previously was one of the city’s pioneering satellite launch companies. The company announced on March 30 that it would lay off 675 employees, or 85%, of its workforce, effective days later in early April.

On April 4, the Richard Branson company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

While a small increase is likely, the layoffs are not expected to cause a substantial rise in unemployment when April data is released next month, according to Nick Schultz, executive director of Pacific Gateway, the city’s workforce development arm.

“It’s tough to say,” Schultz said, noting that there are many factors at play. “But I don’t expect a big shift. Maybe around two-tenths.”

Shortly after the Virgin Orbit announcement, Pacific Gateway went to work on outreach to assist those who were laid off. The organization has held multiple in-person and virtual sessions to provide information and help connect people to new job opportunities.

On Wednesday, the agency is hosting an aerospace job fair at the Convention Center, which will include representatives from over 30 aerospace companies, Schultz said, adding that over 200 former Virgin Orbit employees were signed up.

Back at the county level, the overall region followed the same trends as Long Beach, with the labor force dropping by 8,600 jobs to 5,034,100. The number of employed county residents increased by 5,500 to 4,783,000, while the number of unemployed residents decreased by 14,100 to 251,100.

Only one-third of LA County’s cities and designated areas have higher unemployment rates than Long Beach, data shows. Across the county, 76—or over 61%—of cities and areas have lower unemployment rates than Long Beach.

Seven areas—Charter Oak, Cudahy, East LA, Huntington Park, Pico Rivera and Rolling Hills—have the same unemployment rate as Long Beach.

Leisure and hospitality led the county in month-over-month gains, adding 7,300 jobs, the EDD stated. Accommodation and food services recorded 7,900 additions, which was offset by arts, entertainment and recreation losing 600 jobs.

Other sections that saw job increases were government (4,900), information (4,600), private education and health services (3,900), manufacturing (2,300) and other services (1,100).

Several sectors contracted month-over-month, including construction (1,800 jobs), financial activities (1,500), and professional and business services (1,200). Mining and logging remained unchanged.

Brandon Richardson is a reporter and photojournalist for the Long Beach Post and Long Beach Business Journal.