The Swarm

Mix it up with The Bee's editorial board.

April 17, 2009
Cali unemployment: 11.2 percent


Here is economist Steve Levy's take on today's California jobs report:

California's unemployment rate reached 11.2% in March, the highest rate on record, topping the 11.0% rate of February 1983. The state lost an additional 62,100 jobs in March. For the past 12 months California has seen 637,400 jobs vanish and the state has lost 727,700 jobs since the peak in July 2007. The Jobs Story California lost jobs in March at the same rate as the nation. For the past year California suffered a 4.2% decline in job levels compared to the nation's 3.5% loss. California's higher rate of job loss is primarily the result of greater exposure to the housing downturn and related job losses in construction and finance. 


The nation's job losses are widespread. Thirteen states had greater percentage job losses than California including the three neighboring states of Arizona, Nevada and Oregon. Five southern states, usually thought to have stronger job growth, posted higher job losses than California including Florida, Georgia, North and South Carolina and Tennessee. 

Job losses were widespread with continuing losses in construction, manufacturing, finance, trade and temporary help services. 


The Unemployment Story 

The state's unemployment rate at 11.2% is the fourth highest in the nation behind Michigan, Oregon and South Carolina. There are now eight states with unemployment rates of 10% and above and that number will grow in the coming months. 


Why is California's unemployment rate so much higher than the national average when our job losses are only slightly above the nation's rate of decline?

Your browser may not support display of this image. 

Your browser may not support display of this image. 

California's unemployment rate is higher because, despite job losses throughout 2008, more than 300,000 workers joined the California labor force and , in effect, became instantly unemployed. For some reason California's labor force growth was three times the national average despite during this recession. 


Bottom Line Going Forward 

The job losses are not over and the unemployment rate has not peaked yet in California or in the nation. 

This news is not surprising and the March employment report is not surprising given the bad news in the national jobs report released two weeks ago. 

If the administration's anti-recession efforts succeed the rate of job loss should slow by July. We are seeing some positive economic news mixed in with the disappointing employment numbers and we should see more good news in the coming months. 


If the situation is not clearly getting better by July, I think we will see Plan B including additional stimulus efforts and efforts to help homeowners and state and local governments.


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About The Swarm

The Swarm is written by members of The Sacramento Bee's editorial board. They meet daily and are separate from the newsroom. Views included here are those of individual writers, and do not necessarily reflect those of a majority of the board or the positions expressed in The Bee's editorials.

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