40% of Working Age Californians Jobless

The headline statistic, which comes out of a study by the non-partisan California Budget Project, in isolation sounds worse than it is (which is not to say that this factoid is good, mind you). Labor force participation before the downturn was in the 66%ish range, so this is a meaningful decline (assuming California levels are similar to the US overall.

From the San Francisco Chronicle (hat tip reader John D):

A report released Sunday says two of five working-age Californians do not have a job, underscoring the challenges in one of the toughest job markets in decades. A new study has found that the last time employment levels among this group were this low was February 1977.

By comparison, the current national unemployment rate of 9.7% is the worst since 1983.

But the current situation is worse that that “2 out of 5” figure indicates. The study reported that only 57.5% of working age Californians have a job. The Golden State has the fourth highest unemployment rate in the US. And those who have jobs are on average not doing as well as they once did:

Adding to the woes of workers, the report says, those who still have jobs are bringing home less money, the result of stagnant wages that haven’t kept pace with inflation and cutbacks in the number of hours worked per week.

Happy Labor Day.

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  1. ndk

    Lowest employment rate for working-age males on record, by far, and probably lower than that recorded during the Great Depression given the small fraction of women working outside the home at that time.

    It’s a scary and difficult time to be a worker — and to think, I’m lucky to be one. Here’s hoping everyone who reads this is safe and secure.

  2. Kievite

    As Vincente Navarro noted (see Jesse’s Café Américain entry “The Will to Power and Its Followers in the Socially Immature” )

    “I am afraid we may have, in the near future, friendly fascism. And I do not use the term lightly. I grew up under fascism, in Franco’s Spain, and if nothing else, I recognize fascism when I see it. And we are seeing a growing fascism with a working-class base in the U.S.”

    There is a lot of anger that can easly be manipulated and channelled into distict corporatist movement with the strong base in the South:

    “The Will to Power has a bewitching siren call. It offers simple solutions to complex problems. It provokes the cycle of problem – reaction – solution, and the eye for an eye approach that ‘makes the whole world blind.'”

    1. pooch

      I agree with you and your comment on facism. A good essay “on cooling the mark out” by Irving Goffman I believe provides a good light on todays crisis. The powers to be have ripped everyone off and now they are attempting to cool everybody out to except their lose.

  3. psychohistorian

    ndk, If everyone was safe and secure we would not be reading naked capitalism and trying to figure out which way the wind is blowing…….

    Since they have seemingly taken away a stock market crash or TBTF bankruptcy to act as a RESET button to the economy, what is the other shoe that is going to drop? And what does it do to the world when it falls?

    Curious minds want to know.

  4. Jim in MN


    Get to know Japan a little better. Most of the shoes that will drop have already dropped over there.

    Note that real personal income since 2004 has remained flat, even after twenty years of ‘lost decadeitis’ and the hopeful green shoots during the global asset boom.

    The big save of the bond markets here in the US/EU will be paid for by zero real growth, ditto for real returns on major asset classes. Just like Japan!

    You only get to retire with what YOU save and preserve from recurring sub-crises. No more fake 8% stock growth in perpetuity.

    If US households take this seriously, you can subtract a nice percentage of GDP growth to account for the increased savings. Ditto for corporate pension funds–that will come out of corporate earnings. Then there’s the federal and state budget scenarios. Higher taxes, or will it all be called fees and assessments or just public stuff that is gone and now you have to buy it from someone else? That’s not a tax increase (is it?)…and don’t forget the quiet crisis in insurance (hiding with their eyes tightly shut so no one can see them).

    The household model is now shattered. There isn’t a replacement. If you didn’t get a corporate match would you ‘sock it away in your 401(k)’? Um, no. Is a locked-in long strategy in a 401(k) even really ‘savings’? Questionable if you are setting yourself up for negative returns. Bond funds? Yikes. Can you rationally buy bonds (you own the issue and hold to maturity) in a 401(k)? Ha ha ha no way. A bond fund is not a bond. The churn and market price exposure make bond funds a bad joke compared to a simple laddered series of corporate issuances, each held to maturity. That’s the way to make some real returns right now. And you (my imaginary normal middle class professional reader) ain’t getting any.

    If it feels like you have a target on your back, better check. Chances are you have several, not just one.

    –Jim in MN

  5. Siggy

    Jim in MN,

    Gotta love ya! Great data from the JPN site. Your conclusion is the reality that everyone seems to be denying.

  6. brian

    Economy overly dependent on real estate
    Public employee unions with many receiving salaries that bear no relationship to the skill of their labor and benefits that bear no resemblance to the private sector including unfunded retirement obligations for the state
    Became a welfare magnet
    A porous border that offers low wage and limited skill jobs with no benefits save those provided by the public
    A desire to find someone else (the rich/business) to pay for it all to keep it all going
    In short evolving into a third world micro economy save for
    a few spots but we all cant work in Hollywood or Silly Valley

  7. Keating Willcox

    1. Most retirement and pension plans were the ultimiate destination of toxic assets, hence most savings are are riddled with worthless assets.

    2. The debt/tax load means that for the US, we face a decade of expensive imports, and low prosperity.

    3. New business will start elsewhere in lower tax environments. I live near Lowell MA, which had majot textile business. The business left to areas with lower costs and lower taxes. Nothing has replaced this work.

    4. If you are a college grad/ professional things are Ok

  8. ndk

    4. If you are a college grad/ professional things are Ok

    Keating, I have disagree, and I hate to do so, since I work with many Universities who advertise & manufacture degrees. Check out the recent OECD studies and compare the cumulative cost of education(and debt incurred) even just to the earnings that could have been made during those years, and you’re below breakeven in most OECD countries.

    Thus far, unemployment hasn’t hit college graduates nearly as hard as those without a diploma. But this recession is more egalitarian than prior ones, and with the proliferation of degrees and the maturation of the service sector, I would bet this is a lasting change.

    You could still argue that it’s a good personal experience or creates better people, but to argue that a college degree is a winning financial proposition is becoming more difficult with time.

  9. john c. halasz

    This is poorly presented news. The employment to population ratio, (in which only working age population counts in the denominator), is actually the best gauge of employment/unemployment, when interpreted with suitable demographic sensitivity and in terms of longer term trends. It’s far better than the headline unemployment number, which anyone who follows it knows is hinky. At peak this last cycle, it was at 63% or so, and it peaked during the Clinton boom at a bit above 65%. It has currently dropped to 59%. So the only thing the article is actually saying, which itself is scarcely news, is that CA’s unemployment is somewhat worse than the national average, with the E/P at 57.5%.

  10. Dave Raithel

    I’m going to suppose that most everybody who drops by Yves’ place (except the odd anonymous gold bug or Freeper) does so in irony when not for accuracy. That said, the line of the story that most resonated in my head is:

    “The report said that California now has about the same number of jobs as it did nine years ago, when the state was home to 3.3 million fewer working-age people.”

    Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article/article?f=/n/a/2009/09/06/state/n000211D96.DTL#ixzz0QZTkTqPm

    I’m as certain as I can be about such things that just recently – the last six weeks or so? – the MSM circulated reports on the still yet ever increasing marginal productivity of workers. Wait, here’s something from a week ago:


    The spin on the same article at the Contra Costa Times is that increased productivity is a function of the drop in costs (oh, so now it’s cheaper to make the same amount of stuff in the same amount of time, so we must be making more of it …)


    But, anyway: What’s that definition of surplus labor, again?

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