Escape isn't easy.
As California buckled under layoffs and hiring freezes last year, tens of thousands of residents saw lower unemployment rates in other states and decided to move.
Many couldn't find jobs near their new homes either.
The unemployment rate in 2010 among former Californians who had left the state during the previous 12 months was 19 percent, according to a Bee analysis of new U.S. census data. By comparison, the unemployment rate in the state they left behind was 12 percent.
Those figures partly reflect the dismal job markets in other places. Moving from California to Nevada, which has the nation's highest unemployment rate, isn't the safest bet, but 30,000 people tried it anyway last year.
Texas looked safer. It has added roughly 150,000 jobs since the start of the recession, and 50,000 Californians moved there last year, a higher number than moved to any other state.
But 15 percent of those former Californians couldn't find jobs when they got to Texas, according to The Bee analysis.
The statewide unemployment rate in Texas is 8.1 percent about half a percentage point better than the national average, but still high by historical standards.
The contradiction in Texas more jobs but relatively higher unemployment is largely due to movers, particularly from California. More than 160,000 Californians have moved to Texas since the start of the recession.
"We have produced lots of jobs but, despite that, our unemployment rate is about as high as everywhere else," said Daniel Hamermesh, professor of economics at the University of Texas at Austin. "The reason is simple: We attract migrants."
Hamermesh was blunt in his advice for Californians thinking of leaving for Texas: Don't. Texans, he said, typically earn less and enjoy fewer public services. If they do come, Californians should realize that "if they are looking for a job, so is everyone else."
Carl Friberg wishes someone had given him that advice a few months ago.
Friberg, 55, moved from Texas to California in 2003 with a friend who had family here. He got a job working for a landscaping company in Sonoma County, and did well during the housing boom.
When the housing market tanked, the company laid him off. He spent months looking for work, but found nothing. So he moved back to Texas.
"The job search here seems to be the same as in California," he said in an email Wednesday. "There are precious few jobs, mostly minimum wage, and I have applied to several.
"I would suggest that, if someone wanted to move to Texas for a job, make sure they had one in advance and it was a signed contract."
Former California resident Jessica Prus eventually had better luck than Friberg, but only after weeks of job searching and scores of rejections.
Prus, 31, moved from Texas to California about five years ago, taking bartending and administrative work at Santa Barbara restaurants. When the recession began, her employer cut back her hours.
Prus' boyfriend, an accomplished mechanic, landed a job in Houston. Prus followed him back a few months ago.
"It was harder than I thought to find a job," Prus said by phone, estimating she applied for more than a dozen positions a day. "A lot of people are coming here."
Prus, who is happy with the job she found as an account manager at a lending firm, said many potential employers were not thrilled to see her.
"They said, 'People from California are screwing up the job market in Texas,' " Prus recalled. "And I said, 'But I'm originally from Texas!' "
Unemployment rates among those leaving California have typically been higher than the rates among those who stayed, largely because, like Prus and Friberg, many leave the state quickly without job leads.
Since the start of the recession, the unemployment rate among recent California migrants has risen 70 percent.
None of which means that finding a job elsewhere is impossible, particularly if you are in a high-demand field.
Brian Livingston made good money as a real estate broker in Orange County during the housing boom. When that ended, he was able to fall back on his prior experience in health care administration and quickly find a job at an assisted living home in Dallas. He offered experience in a field that has been a bright spot in the recession.
"If you are really struggling over there," he said of his former California neighbors, "just leave."
Stories like that, combined with the struggling California economy, will keep people moving. The number of residents leaving the state has fallen 30 percent since 2007, but 400,000 Californians still moved elsewhere last year, Internal Revenue Service figures show.
Fair Oaks resident Joji John will join their ranks next month. He installs water heaters for a living, and business is slow, so he's going to try to catch a piece of the oil boom in North Dakota.
"The feel I get is that you can pretty much walk out there and get a job," said John, who doesn't have work lined up but expects to eventually make $90,000 a year. "Around here, I'm making half of what I did a year ago."
ABOUT THIS STORY
This story uses figures from the U.S. Census Bureau's 2010 American Community Survey, which was sent to about 3 million households nationwide throughout the year.
Among other questions, the Census Bureau asked those surveyed whether they had moved during the past year, where they had moved from and whether they currently had a job. The answers to those questions are the basis of this story.
The Census Bureau didn't ask residents when during the past year they moved, so those who said they didn't have jobs may have moved anytime from one to 51 weeks prior to filling out the survey. Likewise, some filling out the survey in early 2010 may have moved in late 2009.