Dan Walters
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  • Hector Amezcua / Sacramento Bee file

    Gov. Jerry Brown leaves the podium with Senate Presdient Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg after he delivered the 2014 State of the State address to a joint session of the Legislature on Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014, at the State Capitol.

  • Dan Walters

Dan Walters: ‘California Comeback’ hasn’t helped everyone

Published: Monday, Sep. 1, 2014 - 12:00 am
Last Modified: Thursday, Sep. 4, 2014 - 5:22 pm

As Gov. Jerry Brown runs for re-election, he has adopted “California Comeback” – voiced during his State of the State address in January – as his informal slogan.

Not surprisingly, therefore, Brown’s Employment Development Department issued a report last week, keyed to Labor Day, crowing that California has recovered – numerically – all of the 1.3 million jobs it lost during the recession.

“California is helping lead the nation in solid job growth, which has enabled us to put the recession behind us,” said EDD Director Patrick W. Henning Jr.

A day later, the left-leaning California Budget Project released its annual Labor Day report and didn’t buy into the everything-is-rosy scenario painted by the governor and his minions.

It pointed out that while the job numbers have recovered, unemployment remains relatively high (tied for sixth-highest in the nation) because, since the recession began in 2007, California’s labor force has grown by more than 700,000 and “far more jobs are needed to account for those additional Californians who are searching for work.”

The CBP also noted that recovery from the recession has been slow and uneven both geographically and by sector.

While the San Francisco Bay Area and a few other coastal regions are booming, double-digit unemployment plagues inland areas, topped by nearly 22 percent in Imperial County.

With major job growth confined largely to a few sectors, such as technology, health care, food service and hotels, blue-collar employment is still depressed and, as the CBP notes, “long-term unemployed workers still make up a large share of California’s jobless residents.”

The interesting thing about the CBP’s nuanced analysis of California’s economy on Labor Day 2014 is that it’s quite similar to those from organizations far to its right.

The business-backed California Center for Jobs and the Economy highlighted many of the same numbers as the CBP in its analysis of the latest employment data, noting that employment actually declined in July and that labor force participation, 61.9 percent of employment-age adults, is historically low.

“The two-tier economic recovery persists,” the organization’s report concludes.

Bill Watkins, who heads economic research at California Lutheran University, observes, “The problem … is that there is not one California economy. Instead, we have a group of regions that will see completely different economic outcomes. Then, those outcomes will be averaged and that … is California’s economy.”

Watkins adds, “On average … California’s economic growth will be far below its potential (and) in most of the state, it will be disappointingly low to dismal. …”

Averaging California’s economy masks some deep-seated problems – including the nation’s highest poverty rate – that shouldn’t be ignored in the political rush to proclaim a “comeback.”

Call The Bee’s Dan Walters, (916) 321-1195. Back columns, www.sacbee.com/walters. Follow him on Twitter @WaltersBee.

Read more articles by Dan Walters

Dan Walters, political columnist

Dan Walters

Dan Walters has been a journalist for more than a half-century, spending all but a few of those years working for California newspapers. At one point in his career, at age 22, he was the nation's youngest daily newspaper editor.

He joined The Sacramento Union's Capitol bureau in 1975, just as Jerry Brown began his first governorship, and later became the Union's Capitol bureau chief. In 1981, Walters began writing the state's only daily newspaper column devoted to California political, economic and social events and, in 1984, he and the column moved to The Sacramento Bee. He has written more than 7,500 columns about California and its politics and his column now appears in dozens of California newspapers.

Email: dwalters@sacbee.com
Phone: 916-321-1195
Twitter: @WaltersBee

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