News Column

California Jobs Outlook Brightens

Sept. 1, 2012

Dale Kasler, The Sacramento Bee

labor day, employment, job markets

Labor Day weekend finds the California job market in the strongest shape it's been in years -- but still nowhere near fully recovered from the recession.

The state Employment Development Department's annual Labor Day briefing said California has added 365,000 jobs in the past year. That's a 2.6 percent growth rate, the best in 11 years and twice the national average, the agency said.

Moreover, the EDD said California has added 507,000 jobs since the low point in 2009.

"California's employment situation has brightened considerably over the last year," the EDD said.

Still, the glass remains less than half full. The 507,000 jobs represent barely more than one-third of the 1.4 million jobs that disappeared during the downturn.

"California still has a long way to go before all the jobs it lost during the recession are recovered, which highlights how severe the recession was," the EDD said.

The statewide unemployment rate for July was 10.7 percent, third highest in the country.

Private experts say California's job growth in the past year has been solid but not spectacular. The job market remains difficult.

"It's better, but for nearly all jobs, there are far more applicants than openings," said former EDD director Michael Bernick, an attorney and labor consultant in San Francisco. "In 33 years in the job-training field, this is as competitive as I've ever seen it."

He said software engineers and programmers, particularly in the social-media industry, have a fairly easy time finding work. In practically every other occupation, there's a flood of qualified applicants for each opening, he said.

On the plus side, Jeff Michael, director of the University of the Pacific's Business Forecasting Center, said California has avoided the job slowdown that affected much of the nation this summer.

While it hasn't made great strides, "California stayed on track," he said.

The EDD report noted the uneven nature of the recovery, with the Bay Area and other coastal regions growing much more quickly than inland California.

However, in recent months, Sacramento and the Central Valley have begun picking up speed. In the past year, despite a continued slowdown in the public sector, the Sacramento area has added jobs at a 2.7 percent growth rate -- slightly better than the state average.

"We finally are seeing some real growth around here," Michael said. "I wouldn't call it rapid growth but I think we've seen the bottom and we're seeing improvement."

Sacramento's unemployment rate was 10.7 percent in July.

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(c)2012 The Sacramento Bee (Sacramento, Calif.)

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Source: (c)2012 The Sacramento Bee


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