California economy gets measured up against other states

150 150 Matthew Grant Anson

Photo Credit: Compare 50

The big national economic news today is that more people rejoined the workforce last month, causing the national unemployment rate to uptick to 7.6 percent up from 7.5 percent while the U.S. added 175,000 jobs. Fortunately, the California economy is an actual bright spot during this slow economic recovery.

For reporters on the economy beat, monthly jobs numbers like these are a valued source of data soup to use to create point-in-time jobs stories. But where can you easily compare how California is doing with other states over time using charts of useful data?

Thanks to Dr. David Neumark of the University of Irvine, and Next 10 – the nonprofit that commissioned his research – that information is now compiled on The site allows anyone with access to the Internet to compare and track data relating to the economy, innovation, jobs, income and demographics.

“The report is meant to build this database as a resource that other folks can use to have a set of facts,” Neumark said. “It doesn’t settle policy issues, but it sets facts straight that people can argue on the basis of.”

There is no shortage of troubling facts that can be found in Compare50’s graphs when it comes to the Golden State. Underemployment – a measure that gauges the percent of the population with insufficient employment, be it not enough hours or not using skills/training – sees California clocking in at nearly the worst in the country. While every state saw some rise in underemployment beginning with the economic downturn, California had the second worst percentage as of 2011 with 11.58 percent. Only Nevada has a higher rate. This is in comparison to the United States average, which is 8.28 percent. Meanwhile, California’s unemployment rate is still sitting at 9 percent, the fourth worst in the nation.

But wait, isn’t California experiencing an economic recovery? According to Neumark, the answer is still yes. “I’m not making a prediction, but it’s a trend – job growth is fairly high but the unemployment rate isn’t coming down,” Neumark said. “And we think that’s a reflection of a decline in discouraged workers. They leave the not-looking-for-work and they enter the looking-for-work category.”

These new, refreshed job seekers are responding to what the latest UCLA Anderson Forecast quarterly report says is one of the few bright spots for the overall economy: job growth in California. According to the report, out this week, “For the last 12 months, ending in April 2013, only Utah’s employment growth rate rose faster.”

More people finding employment will lead to more purchasing of homes, says the report, which will eventually lead to more residential construction.

Still, the state can’t afford to sit on its laurels and cross its fingers that trends continue: it must facilitate improvement through good and bad times. The California Economic Summit’s seven Signature Initiatives are all designed to improve the economy’s ability to create jobs, be it through boosting small businesses’ access to capital or cutting red tape that prevents innovation. California needs to bring its Compare50 jobs stats back to Earth, and it’s the ideas being hashed out at the 16 Regional Economic Forums being held around California that can help facilitate that.


Matthew Grant Anson

All stories by: Matthew Grant Anson