Intersections: A monthly go-to for reliable facts and analysis about California's debt, investments and economy

California Job Tracker

By Lynn Reaser

Figure 1: More Areas Move Upward

Percent Change in Jobs from Pre-Recession Peaks

Map of California showing areas which have recovered or not recovered

Further Gains in California, Although a Little Slower

California�s job market made further progress in May, but employment gains did moderate after April�s surge. The state�s nonfarm employers added 15,200 people to their payrolls between April and May, compared to the prior month�s advance of 70,000. Meanwhile, the state�s jobless rate declined further to 5.2% in April from 5.3% a month earlier and 6.4% a year ago.

California�s jobless rate has been falling faster than the nation�s. While the nation�s rate dropped to 4.7% in May, it has decreased 0.8 percentage point from a year ago versus the 1.2 percentage point drop experienced in California.

The number of the state�s 29 metropolitan areas that have fully recovered from their recession job lows remains at 25. (See Figure 1.) The only four metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) that have not yet recovered are Hanford-Corcoran, Redding, Oxnard-Ventura-Thousand Oaks, and Yuba City. Eight of California�s areas have achieved increases of 6% or more relative to their prior peak levels of employment. Two areas, the Salinas MSA and Orange County, moved up into the medium growth bracket, starting at a growth rate of 3.1%.

Monthly job changes can be volatile as seasonal hiring patterns can shift from year to year. May�s relatively modest gain should not cause undue alarm especially in light of the large April gain, which was even revised upward from the initial 60,000 increase.


Jobs and Wages

On a year-over-year basis, all of California�s major economic sectors posted gains in May with the exception of manufacturing and mining/logging. In terms of absolute numbers, health care and social assistance accounted for the largest increase, while educational services represented the biggest percentage rise. (See Figure 2.)

Figure 2: California Job Growth Widespread Among Sectors

May 2016, seasonally adjusted, thousands

The largest share of the job growth that has taken place during the past year has been in the $25-34 an hour category ($52,000 to $71,000 per year). (See Figure 3.) These jobs are concentrated in business services, education, transportation and utilities, construction, and government.

Figure 3: Job Growth Dispersed Across Wage Levels

Share of Job Growth, May 2016 Over Prior Year, by Average Hourly Wage

Column chart showing share of job growth, May 2016 over prior year, by average hourly wage. $10-14 = 14%; $15-24 = 31%; $25-34 = 37%; $35-44 = 3%; $45=54 = 12%; $55 and over = 3%.

Source: EDD; FBEI

California remains vulnerable to the various forces impacting the global and national economies, but it continues to still indicate considerable momentum.

See raw data: Employment numbers by region.

Lynn Reaser is chair of the treasurer’s Council of Economic Advisors and chief economist at the Fermanian Business and Economic Institute for Point Loma Nazarene University. The opinions in this article are presented in the spirit of spurring discussion and reflect those of the author and not necessarily the treasurer, his office or the State of California.