The Southern California job market hit a record high in October, defying the Federal Reserve’s efforts to cool an overheated economy with steep interest rate hikes.

My trusty spreadsheet, filled with state jobs data released Friday, found that bosses in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties added 109,200 workers in October, the best month for hiring since February 2021. This has put a total of 8 million at work in the region, up by 360,300 in 12 months and surpassing a November 2019 high of 7.953 million.

October also marks the first time that Southern California jobs have surpassed the level of February 2020, the last month before COVID-19 jolted the economy. The statewide job market also “fully recovered” in October, wiping out what had been a 2.6 million job loss when the pandemic shut down the economy.

The pace of local hiring in October was higher than the average of 30,025 workers added monthly over the past year. Employment records were set in October for the local transportation/warehousing, business services and healthcare/personal services sectors.

Note that October is typically busy for hiring as educators return to class and holiday shopping gears up. Between 2105 and 2019, the average October added 92,200 jobs in the region.

The rebound in hiring kept Southern California unemployment low at 4% in October, the same as in September. It was 6.4% a year earlier and 3.9% in February 2020, just before the pandemic hit.

Regional differences

Here’s how the labor market performed in the main metropolitan areas of the region…

Los Angeles County: 4.61 million workers, up 99.8% in February 2020 after adding 58,800 in one month and growing by 196,600 in one year. Unemployment? 4.5% – same as one month before; 6.2% a year ago; 4.3% in February 2020.

Orange County: 1.69 million workers, up 100.5% in February 2020 after adding 22,800 in one month and growing by 77,600 in one year. Unemployment? 2.8% against 2.7% in the previous month; 4.1% a year ago; 2.8% in February 2020.

Inland Empire: record 1.69 million workers, up 107% in February 2020 after adding 27,600 in one month and growing by 86,100 in one year. Unemployment? 3.9% – same as one month before; 5.4% a year ago; 3.9% in February 2020.

Irregular bounce

The pandemic-era hiring rebound has not been a reversal, with large differences in employment recovery in key job niches. Look at four counties’ worker counts by key industries, ranked by the size of the pandemic-era recovery…

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