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Data gathered from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the California Department of Economic Development

U.S. has modest job gains in September, East Bay economy is still growing

on October 13, 2016

The U.S. economy is strong and still growing⎯and the East Bay is right there with it.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday that the U.S. unemployment rate ticked up slightly to 5 percent in September. Nonfarm employment rose modestly, adding 156,000 jobs.  Job gains for July and August were revised slightly lower, down only 7,000 jobs from strong estimates previously reported.

It was one of the last major reports to be released before the November election, and one more sign of continued modest brightening of the economy.

Meanwhile, the most recent data for the Bay Area shows Alameda County’s unemployment rate at 4.6 percent as of August. Numbers for September will be released on October 21, but they’re not expected to change much.

“The economic outlook for the East Bay is bright,” said Darien Louie, executive director of the East Bay Economic Development Agency. “We’re a more robust area than other parts of the nation and we have some things going for us.”

She said the East Bay’s strong public transportation system and lower housing costs are helping to attract millennials and others flocking from expensive San Francisco and Silicon Valley.

And the jobs are here. As just one example, Tesla just announced plans to nearly double the size of its Fremont auto plant, an expansion that could bring 3,100 new jobs to the East Bay.

Tesla’s growth appears to be stimulating job creation at other companies as well. Louie said an interior parts supplier is looking to open a new site in the East Bay, which could bring an additional 300 jobs.

However, as the economy grows, the increase of people has caused more congestion in public transportation and pushed housing prices higher, according to Stephen Levy, director and senior economist at the Palo Alto-based Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy.

Levy said the region’s economy has been growing much faster than the nation’s. Local ballot initiatives that aim to address some of the negative side effects⎯like Measure KK, an Oakland city bond proposal to invest in infrastructure and affordable housing⎯could do very well come Election Day.

Just as Tesla looks to expand, the East Bay is an attractive location for new or growing companies, according to Marisa Raya, a special projects analyst for the city of Oakland Office of Economic and Workforce Development. “Oakland is the center of the Bay Area and the local transit system, so the accessibility for workers is amazing,” Raya said.

As more people move into the Bay Area, Raya said, companies are slowly moving to be near the talent, which in turn brings more jobs.

But it was not only jobs that inched up last month.

Average hourly earnings went up by 6 cents in September compared with the same month last year. The labor force participation rate—a measure of how much of the working-age population is working or looking for a job—rose 0.1 percentage point to 62.9 percent from August.

The October jobs report is one of the most important economic measures watched by policymakers at the Federal Reserve. Although the strengthening job market might otherwise argue for higher interest rates, most analysts expect no change this close to the election.

Fed Chair Janet Yellen said last month that policymakers were considering whether to raise rates once this year. The last increase was in December 2015.

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Photo by Basil D Soufi
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