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

California Job Tracker: State Makes Further Strides in Labor Market

By Lynn Reaser

Figure 1: Six Million Jobs in Rapid Recovery Regions

Percent Change in Jobs from Pre-Recession Peaks

Map of California showing areas which have recovered or not recovered

California made further progress in July with a solid and widespread gain in jobs. Nonfarm employers added 36,000 positions to their payrolls between June and July, building on the 33,000 jobs that had been added in the prior month.

The state�s unemployment rate edged slightly higher to 5.5% in July from 5.4% in the prior month, but this reflected a surge of 60,000 people into the workforce. This was the largest increase in history and suggests that Californians are again becoming more optimistic about finding work.

California has made large strides in narrowing its unemployment rate relative to the nation. At the beginning of 2011, when the state�s jobless rate was at 12%, it was nearly three percentage points above the national average. As of July 2016, the gap stands at only about one-half of a percentage point. (See Figure 2.)

With respect to the recovery of different parts of California from their prior employment peaks, two areas joined the front-runners in July. Both Santa Rosa and El Centro now show nonfarm payroll totals that have grown more than 6% from their prior highs. In contrast, Madera and Salinas slipped from the moderate growth class to the group showing gains of 3% or less. (See Figure 1.)

The count of the state�s 29 metropolitan areas that have fully recovered their recession job losses remains at 25. The only four metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) that have not recovered are Hanford-Corcoran, Redding, Oxnard-Ventura-Thousand Oaks, and Yuba City. Based on job trends during the past 12 months, all of these areas except Redding should fully recover within the next year. (See Figure 1.)

Figure 2: State Closes Jobless Rate Gap

Percent, seasonally adjusted, July 2016

Source: Haver Analytics; EDD; FBEI

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.