A construction worker cuts exposed rebar on the future site of Long Beach Airport's new baggage claim area, Friday, Sept. 10, 2021. Photo by Brandon Richardson.

Unemployment in Long Beach fell almost a full percentage point in February, from 6.4% to 5.5%, according to data recently released by the California Employment Development Department.

The city’s unemployment rate has historically trailed just behind Los Angeles County’s rate, but the gap grew even wider amid the recovery following the pandemic spike that saw the rates climb as high as 19% and 18.8%, respectively. The biggest difference between the two—1.6 percentage points—was in December 2020.

Long Beach’s February decrease, however, still has it trailing behind 68% of the county’s 134 other cities and communities. Only 27.6% of the county has a higher unemployment rate than Long Beach.

Five other cities—Bell, El Segundo, Glendale, Lawndale and LA—have the same unemployment rate as Long Beach.

At the state level, the unemployment rate decreased to 4.8% in February, down from 5.5% the month before.

“California’s labor market has had a very encouraging start to the year,” Taner Osman, research manager at Beacon Economics and the Center for Economic Forecasting, said in a statement. “And now that many of the public health mandates restricting activity have been removed, and there is a jobs deficit in the state compared to the nation, we should continue to see strong job growth in the coming months.”

The city’s labor force grew by 1,600 people from 233,800 in January to 235,400 in February, according to state data. The number of employed Long Beach residents, meanwhile, increased by 3,600 people to 222,400.

The number of unemployed Long Beach residents decreased from 15,000 in January to 13,000 in February.

Countywide, staffing levels increased in all industry sectors except mining and logging, which had no change, according to the EDD. Two sectors—leisure and hospitality, and education and health services—accounted for 34% of the nonfarm employment increase.

Three sectors, including educational and health services, construction, and professional and business services, have surpassed pre-pandemic levels, according to the EDD.

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