California’s unemployment drops to 5.3% for April

580 200 John Guenther

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California's unemployment rate in April dropped to a level not seen in this state since 2007, according to California Employment Development Department data released today. But there some state and local actions available that can help keep the jobs picture bright and make sure signficant number of the jobs people are taking are middle-class jobs.

The good news: The state's April unemployment rate declined to 5.3 percent, adding 59,600 jobs during that month. Compared with April of last year, the number of unemployed Californians is down by 211,000 and nonfarm payroll employment went up by 450,200 jobs, a 2.8 percent increase, compared with 1.9 percent for the nation.

Since the recovery began in February 2010, California has gained a total of almost 2.2 million jobs. Among industries, professional and business services had the best month of April, adding 17,900 jobs.

Looking at metro areas, the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale metro division had the biggest year-over-year unemployment drop at 2.1 percent from April 2015 to April 2016, going from 6.8 percent to 4.7.

The construction industry had the largest year-over-year gains by percentage, with a 7.0 percent increase and adding 49,800 jobs.

Needs improvement: Something that could help with those construction job numbers is sufficiently tackling California's housing crisis. 

Of course, that's a tall order. But data from the California Association of Realtors show that California is underbuilt and it's unsold inventory remains low. A variety of reasons are given including more people staying put because of the affordability problem and new construction staying at low levels.

In fact, to keep up with demand, the state needs to build one million more homes over the next 10 years. The California Economic Summit has created an action plan to meet that challenge.

It is estimated that the state lost nearly 700,000 construction jobs with the collapse of the state’s housing economy during the Great Recession. And by creating incentives and other policy actions to support building those one million new homes, ideally that all means more Californians back to work.

RELATED VIDEO: Summit makes the case for a broader strategy to take on California's housing crisis

The Summit has also been highlighting workforce gaps that are estimated to hit the California economy in the next 10 years, barring any changes. The state will need one million more workers with some kind of skill certificate or post-seconday degree to fill jobs opening up in the next decade, another of the Summit's One Million Challenges.

Similarly, due to an aging workforce and job turnover, these gaps exist nationwide in a range of industries. A Brookings Institute report showed that 3 million U.S. jobs related to infrastructure will open up over the next decade. 

Data like that show it's essential to not only invest in fixes for the country's infrastructure but also to put in place now the right job training and workforce development programs.

California's community colleges, spread across the state's regions, command a good spot to address regional workforce training demands. Employers and workforce development advocates have been urging state legislators to approve the $200 million for the Strong Workforce Program and a $48-million annual commitment to the Career Technical Education Pathways Program.

The program funding will accelerate adoption of training and certificate programs in the community colleges to support the workforce needs of the regions the colleges serve. And increasing the coordination between colleges will help ensure not only will the funding worthwhile programs, it will be results-oriented.

The goal is to get more students trained for good-paying jobs that require career technical education (CTE) degrees. CTE programs have been shown to go a long way toward accomplishing this goal—with graduates earning an average salary of $66,000 only five years after finishing their programs, compared to $38,500 for other community college graduates.

So, not only will the graduates add to the ranks of the employed, they'll hopefully be landing jobs allowing them to join the ranks of California's middle-class.


John Guenther

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