The Breakdown | Explaining Southern California's economy
Business & Economy

Overall unemployment in state, LA County keeps falling, but some places still struggle

Walter Flores was unemployed for 8 months in 2014 but is now working in sales for Workforce Solutions in Compton
Walter Flores was unemployed for 8 months in 2014 but is now working in sales for Workforce Solutions in Compton
Brian Watt/KPCC

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California's unemployment rate continued its decline in December, ending the year at 7 percent, according to figures released Friday by the state Employment Development Department.

But in Compton, Willowbrook and the Florence-Graham section of Los Angeles County, it remains about double that, data show.

“You might have work this week. But next week, you won’t have work,” said James Hicks, 36, 0f Compton. He's worked in warehouses through staffing agencies, but said the jobs have always been temporary.

Statewide, California has added jobs at a faster rate than the United States for three straight years, according to Robert Kleinhenz, Chief Economist with the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation. He pointed out the statewide unemployment rate is now where it was June 2008. 

"All in all, with the recession now five years back in our rearview mirror, we’re finally at the point where we can say that we have shrugged off quite a bit of the pain that occurred back during those times," Kleinhenz said.

The Los Angeles County metro area saw a net gain of almost 71,000 jobs in 2014.  The County's overall unemployment rate has fallen to 7.9 percent from 9.2 percent a year ago.

But Compton's unemployment rate was 13 percent in December.

“I’d rather have a  full-time type of gig, working 40 hours a week, but right now, even if you get 25 hours, it’s a blessing,” said Hicks, the warehouse worker in Compton.

On Thursday, he interviewed to be a guard with a security firm, but was told there weren’t any positions available. He had another security guard job six months ago that he thought might become full time and permanent. 

"It was going all right for about two to three months, until they cut my hours and days," Hicks said. 

Walter Flores lives in La Mirada but currently works as an account executive in the Compton office of Workforce Solutions. He was unemployed for about eight months last year after a car accident.

"Losing what you love to do is a tough one, but I'm back," he said. "2015 is going to be a great year."

Flores said most major warehouse and logistics companies prefer to hire temporary workers through industrial staffing firms like the one where he's working because their needs are sporadic.  

But he said it's still a potential opportunity.

"It doesn't matter that it's a temporary position, as long as you put your foot in the door, and then you let the employer know how much value you are for the company," Flores said.  

Hicks, who's earned a GED, wants to find a program to study physical therapy. But first, he’d like to find a job. 

He said you can't judge Compton’s residents by its unemployment rate.

"Some of us out here who [are] looking for jobs, but sometimes it’s the luck of the draw," he said. "It’s kind of scarce out there.”