Luna Walker bags chocolate croissants for patrons at Nabolom Bakery in Berkeley on Jan. 19, 2022. Photo by Martin do Nascimento, CalMatters

Unemployment in Long Beach dropped half a percentage point to 5% in March, according to data published by the California Employment Development Department, marking the eighth consecutive month the rate has decreased.

The unemployment rate was 10.7% in July of last year and has steadily decreased each month.

“We have seen the employment nearly restored to pre-pandemic levels,” Nick Schultz, executive director of the city’s Pacific Gateway Workforce Investment Network, said in an email to the Business Journal.

Long Beach unemployment was 4.8% in February 2020 before it ballooned amid the pandemic.

The city’s labor force decreased slightly, from 235,400 in February to 234,800 in March. The number of employed Long Beach residents, meanwhile, increased from 222,400 to 223,100 in the same period. The number of unemployed residents decreased by 1,300.

Long Beach’s gains, however, still see the city trailing behind over 68% of Los Angeles County’s other 123 cities and recognized census areas, data shows. Only 35 cities and areas have a higher unemployment rate than Long Beach.

Five cities—Covina, El Segundo, Hawthorne, Los Angeles and Montebello—have the same rate as Long Beach, state data shows.

Countywide unemployment also dropped half a percentage point in March, now 4.9%, state data shows. The county’s labor force decreased by 9,200 from February to March to just over 5 million. The number of employed residents increased 15,100 to 4.8 million. The number of unemployed rose by 700 to 247,700.

Long Beach unemployment data broken out by ZIP code is not available, according to Schultz. That is expected to change in the coming months, however, when the organization will begin compiling that data. Once the process begins, the findings will be reported quarterly, Schultz added.

Educational and health services sectors led growth countywide, adding 6,600 jobs—4,800 in health care and social assistance, and 1,800 in educational services—from February to March, according to state data. Leisure and hospitality, one of the leading sectors of the state, aded 5,800 jobs last month.

Year-over-year, the leisure and hospitality sector has increased countywide by 106,800, or 28%. The sector is leading the state’s post-pandemic economic recovery, accounting for 36% of the total nonfarm job growth over the last year.

The county’s professional and business services sector saw a decrease of 2,800 jobs from February to March, which is its greatest month-over-month shrinkage, the state report reads. Trade, transportation and utilities reported the loss of 1,200 positions month-over-month.

The statewide unemployment rate decreased from 4.8% in February to 4.2% last month, according to the EDD.

“The strong job gains relative to the nation will continue, since California has more ground to recover compared to the rest of the country,” Taner Osman, research manager at Beacon Economics and the Center for Economic Forecasting, said in a statement, adding that rising interest rates and inflation are not expected to slow employment growth.

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