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Placer County’s unemployment rate dropped to 5.2 percent during December, reaching its lowest point since 2007.

The California Employment Development Department reported that Placer County had 9,400 unemployed workers out of a total civilian workforce of 178,700 people last month. Its seasonally unadjusted 5.2 percent jobless rate was down from the 5.9 percent posted for November and from the 6.5 percent recorded for December a year earlier.

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Last month’s 5.2 percent matches the mark Placer County recorded in December 2007 and is slightly higher than the 4.9 percent recorded in November 2007.

In December, Placer County’s jobless rate was the 12th lowest among California’s 58 counties. It was below the 6.7 percent rate for the state as a whole and the 6.2 percent for the four-county Sacramento region. 

“This is welcome news for Placer County,” Chairman Kirk Uhler of the Placer County Board of Supervisors said. “We weathered the recession better than most counties and our economy began regaining momentum sooner. The economic rebound means more job seekers are finding work and county government is able to make more progress on long-term goals as our budget picture slowly improves.” 

He noted that Placer County’s job-growth rate has received nationwide attention over the last few years. Its 5.0 rate for the 12-month period ending Sept. 30, 2013 earned it a tie for sixth among the nation’s 334 largest counties in a report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Placer County has the highest growth rate among 26 counties in California with populations large enough to be included in the report.

County Economic Development Director David C. Snyder reported that nursing, health services, computer systems, software support and retail make up the lion’s share of newly filled jobs in Placer County. The professional and business service sectors also are doing well.

Snyder noted that retail, office and industrial vacancy rates are declining in Placer County and new construction of homes, apartments, stores and industrial facilities are under way.

“Business prospects for 2015 are upbeat,” he said. “Consumer and small-business confidence have improved across the board.”

A recent example of the county’s emphasis on long-term budget goals was the board’s Jan. 6 decision to approve a plan to fully fund Placer County’s unfunded liabilities for retiree benefits other than pensions – a category that includes medical, dental and vision benefits.  Collectively, they are known as other post-employment benefits, or OPEB for short.

OPEB obligations, which include both the prospective and future costs associated with applicable benefits, have historically been funded by governments on an annual pay-as-you-go basis.  Local governments are now required to recognize the value of outstanding liabilities in their annual financial statements demonstrating future fiscal obligations.

“The path we are on now will ensure OPEB benefits are fully funded within 15 years,” explained Andy Heath, Deputy County Executive Officer of Finance, Administration and Budget. “Placer County already has reduced its unfunded OPEB liability by almost 40 percent since 2009. Achieving full funding will allow the County to stop playing catch-up while freeing up operating funds for other priorities; and, more importantly, it will guarantee our employees that the County will be able to honor our long-term commitments to them. There are a lot of counties that can’t say that right now.”

The California Employment Development Department reported that the Sacramento region’s civilian workforce grew by 18,000 jobs, or 2.0 percent, during the 12-month period that ended in December 2014. The region is comprised of Sacramento, Placer, El Dorado and Yolo counties.

The professional and business services sector led the way, continuing its robust growth by adding 5,900 jobs. Educational and health services grew by 4,400 jobs and the government sector increased by 2,600. Two industries experienced declines: leisure and hospitality lost 2,600 jobs and the information sector dipped by 500. 

California Unemployment Rate By County

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