By ADAM BEAM
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California’s unemployment rate held steady in January as the nation’s most populous state added 53,600 jobs. It’s a sign the state’s economy is slowly returning to pre-pandemic levels. But soaring inflation over the past year combined with rising gas prices could quickly slow the state’s growth. The latest numbers released Friday show California outperformed the rest of the nation in job growth last year. California has now regained 82% of the roughly 2.7 million jobs the state lost at the start of the pandemic. But the state still has a worker shortage, with the labor force smaller than it was last year by 452,000 workers.