The Sacramento Bee’s editorial “California’s demise is greatly exaggerated” (March 24) declared economic victory on news that California created 498,000 jobs in 2014. While we welcome this good news, it does not reflect the true statewide economic reality.
The editorial is wrong to say California did “better than Texas last year on a percentage basis.” Texas and six other states grew at a faster rate. Furthermore, California needs an additional 450,000 jobs to match our population growth.
Our unemployment remains more than 20 percent above the U.S., and behind Texas and 45 other states. Twenty-two California counties are still in double digits.
Our poverty rate exceeds 23 percent, highest in the nation.
Too many jobs remain part-time – 20.3 percent of total employed.
We are growing higher and lower-wage jobs, and losing middle-class jobs. Recent data show our largest growth industry since the recession is not high-tech or green jobs but individual and family services – an industry dominated by government-paid jobs with an average annual wage of about $14,000.
No doubt California is attractive to start and grow certain businesses such as high-tech, which is booming in some coastal regions. These are businesses that grow on what we offer best – universities, urban amenities to attract skilled workers – with wages to match our high costs of living.
But all jobs data clearly show we are losing middle-class jobs, especially manufacturing, which once formed the backbone of our upward mobility. These are the businesses most directly affected by the “high taxes, tough regulations and expensive housing” The Bee dismisses out of hand. The Bay Area – with only 20 percent of our population – accounts for more than 60 percent of net employment growth since 2007.
This jobs situation is no better illustrated than by the photograph accompanying the editorial, an idyllic restaurant scene overlooking the Big Sur coast.
A party of four would pay more than $400 for dinner off their featured menu, including drinks, taxes and tip. The cost of this meal is nearly the same as the average California family of four would pay for half a month’s worth of food and beverages.
A number of those 498,000 new jobs will be able to pay for a meal like that. But the real focus should be on the millions of families who can’t because of our high taxes, tough regulations, and expensive energy and housing that limits the investment, job creation and middle-class upward mobility that has been the hallmark of this state.
Robert C. Lapsley is president of the
California Business Roundtable.