The final EDD monthly employment release of 2011 last Friday, December 16 shows California gaining a modest 6,600 payroll jobs over the month, but a total gain of 211,000 payroll jobs from January 2011. Though the state’s employment recovery continues in fits and starts (a high 37,600 payroll gain in October), we’re definitely better off from an employment perspective than we were a year ago at this time.

Richard Holden our U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) guru, forwards other data of interest. Last week I posted the BLS Job Openings and Labor Turnover Summary (JOLTS) on the number of hires each month in California (roughly 400,000-450,000 per month). Richard forwards data from another BLS source, the Business Employment Dynamics (BED) series. BED is based on actual payroll data from California employers. The current data are only through the first quarter of 2011. For this quarter, gross job gains in private sector firms (new firms and expansions) totaled 752,698, or roughly 250,000 gross job gains per month. This number was well below the 989,220 gross private sector job gains as recently as the fourth quarter of 2007. However, it still represents a broad base of hiring, and does not include public sector hiring.

What can we say for 2012? A year ago, I posted the predictions for 2011 by two of our major economic forecasting groups, the UCLA Anderson School and Chapman University. Anderson predicted that unemployment would go down slowly in California in 2011, from the 12.4% at the end of 2010 to 10.9% by the end of 2011. Chapman also predicted that unemployment would go down in 2011, but remain above 10%. Both were correct, though the unemployment rate at 11.3% for November, is slightly above predictions. Anderson predicted a gain of 183,000 payroll jobs and Chapman predicted 167,000. Both predictions are well within the ballpark for the gain through November of 211,600 jobs.

For 2012, the Anderson School is predicting a 1.4% payroll growth rate (roughly 200,000 net payroll jobs), and California unemployment around 11.6%. Chapman University is predicting a 1.6% payroll growth rate (roughly 237,000 jobs). We’ll check back a year from now.

As we head into Christmas 2011, we receive presents from our Fox and Hounds Motown music expert, Mr. Bruno Peguese. Mr. Peguese, specialist in land development at the BART transit system, points us to this youtube video rendition of “This Old Heart of Mine”, the 1966 hit by the Isley Brothers. Talk about longevity in business: the Isley Brothers got their start in the early 1950s in gospel music, hit big in the 1960s with “Twist and Shout”, “This Old Heart of Mine”, and “It’s Your Thing”, and recorded through the 1990s. They were entrepreneurs in their own right, forming their own label T-Neck Records. Try listening to “This Old Heart of Mine” without getting a smile on your face.

Here’s another youtube video from 1966, that you can’t watch without a smile. It’s the Four Tops singing “It’s the Same Old Song” on the Ed Sullivan show. The Four Tops also started in the 1950s (originally as The Four Aims) and have continued to the present, singing the national anthem a few months ago at the American League baseball championship series.

Speaking of 1966, in December 1966, the state’s unemployment rate was 5.1%. This rate actually was up a little from the unemployment range of 4%-4.9% throughout much of 1966.  The state’s unemployment rate continued to be under 5% for nearly every month throughout the end of the 1960s, until it begin to rise in January 1970.