Past Features

October 6, 2015

San Diego Union-Tribune -- October 2, 2015
Dan Walters: California jobs and poverty reports are grim
    Federal officials released three major economic reports last month and together, they paint a dark picture of California.
    Superficially, the monthly employment report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics was good news.
    California added 36,300 jobs in August, 470,000 in one year and more than 2 million since the recovery began statistically. The unemployment rate, which had topped 12 percent during the recession, dropped to 6.1 percent in August.
    Meanwhile, the Census Bureau reported that California's official poverty rate for 2014 was 16.3 percent, somewhat higher than the national rate of 14.7 percent.
    Finally, a Bureau of Economic Analysis report on regional economies revealed that outside the red-hot Bay Area, California's economy trailed national expansion last year, and several rural areas actually saw declines. [...]
    Among the nation's 387 Bureau of Labor Statistics “metropolitan statistical areas (MSA),” nine of the 10 with the highest unemployment rates are in California, topped by 24.2 percent in Imperial County. Among the nation's 51 largest MSAs, the Riverside-San Bernardino region is dead last at 7.1 percent.
    California fares even worse by a truer measure of underemployment, called U-6, which counts not only workers who are officially unemployed, but those “marginally attached” to the labor force and those involuntarily working part-time.
    The state's U-6 rate is 14 percent, down a bit from the recession but still the nation's second-highest, topped only by Nevada's 15.2 percent.
    Finally, the true employment picture is affected by the “labor force participation rate,” the percentage of those in the prime working age group (16-64) working or seeking work. California's is 62.3 percent, the lowest level in 40 years.
    When more than a third of potential workers sit on the sidelines, the official unemployment rate, or even U-6, look much better than they truly are. The true underemployment rate may be closer to 20 percent.