Thousands of San Diegans dropped out of the labor force in December, pushing the county’s unemployment rate to its lowest point since September 2008.

The state Employment Development Department reported on Friday that San Diego County’s jobless rate was 6.4 percent in December, down from a revised 6.9 percent in November. The rate fell largely because 7,800 people dropped out of the labor force in December, either by retiring or giving up looking for work. That means they are no longer counted as unemployed.

“The drop in the labor force is really puzzling all of the economists,” said Esmael Adibi, economist at Chapman University. “Typically the labor force drops during a recession because people lose their job, they go back to school or stay home for a while, but as the economy improves you expect people to come back and this is a phenomenon we don’t see happening.”

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