Looking at California’s jobs numbers from a step back

150 150 John Guenther

Unemployed vs. MTV’s “Underemployed.” California’s September jobs report and MTV’s new comedy made their debut last
week. (Photo credits: Creative Commons and MTV).

Last week, an important event involving people trying to land jobs found its way into the news cycle, earning mixed reviews. 

I’m not talking about the debut of MTV’s “Underemployed“, a comedy about Millennials trying to make it in the Great Recession era and living in apartments they clearly couldn’t afford in real life.

California’s jobs numbers for September landed on Friday, in a week of mixed economic news, from the opening of Amazon’s 700-job San Bernardino distribution facility, ensuring next-day delivery of appliances in California (hooray!), to AMD’s announcement that the California-based computer processor company will slash 30 percent of its workforce worldwide (yikes!).

Let’s run the numbers from the California Employment Development Department:

California unemployment dropped to 10.2 percent, down 0.4 percent from the previous month. The state has added 262,000 jobs year-over-year, representing 1.9 percent growth compared to the national 1.4 percent. But, California only added 8.500 total jobs in September. 

The Bay Area, which was been a hotbed of jobs during the recovery, typifies the September trend. The mayor of San Francisco trumpeted the city’s unemployment rate which sits at 6.9 percent, down from 9.6 in January of last year. But the flip side is the region only added net 100 jobs in September, specifically in San Francisco, Marin and San Mateo counties, according to the EDD numbers.

So where does that actually leave California? If you look at the big picture, not so bad but it’s been a slow, uphill climb.

Jordan Levine, director of economic research at Beacon Economics weighed in on the latest numbers and said it’s important to look at the long-term trends of the California jobs market in the past 12 months, not just one isolated month.

“Focusing on private-sector jobs alone, California actually added more than 14,000 jobs this month,” said Levine in a statement. “The pace of the recovery has not been spectacular, but it has been showing consistent signs of improvement. Professional and Business Services, Tourism, and Logistics have all continued to do well. We are, in fact, in the midst of a recovery in the state, albeit at a slow pace.”

Many people have complained nationally that any drop in unemployment is because people are giving up. But the economists at Beacon added that, while drop in California unemployment was partly caused by a shinkage of the labor force, it was attributed mostly to people going from unemployed to employed: 

“While a 0.4 percentage point decline over a single month seems high, looking at the longer-term trend, the 1.5 percentage drop from September 2011 to September 2012 makes solid economic sense given the economy‚Äôs overall growth trends.”

One big reason the state only added 8,500 jobs was California was dragged back by a losses in government and manufacturing jobs, down 6,400 and 6,900 jobs, respectively. 

One lesson from these reports is that California needs to make sure we’re looking long-term and creating the right conditions for growth out of the recession and beyond. The California Economic Summit is making progress on a number of fronts, from developing a next-generation workforce to making sure small businesses can innovate and get capital to grow. Take a look at all of our progress today. 


John Guenther

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