Apparently the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics hasn’t gotten the word that California is a terrible, no good, rotten place doomed to sink into economic decrepitude. It has reported again that California led the nation in job growth last month and over the last year. As economist Stephen Levy notes, California accounted for half of all the jobs added in the country in May and June.
Let’s be clear. None of this means the economy is fully recovered. An unemployment rate of 10.7 percent statewide is reason to cheer only because the rate was so much higher two years ago. California, like the rest of the nation and the world, still suffers from the fallout from the collapse of the housing bubble, the resulting recession and budget crisis, and huge losses of jobs in construction, government, and education. California, like everyone else, is being held back by the political paralysis of decision makers in the Federal Reserve and Congress. There’s lot of work to do.
But what the numbers do show is that the California haters are full of hooey, and always have been.
As always, the numbers show that there is no such thing as a “California economy.” What people call the California economy is an umbrella term for a collection of regional economies, each with its own mix of industries.
Under the California umbrella fall both the San Joaquin Valley, with its deep poverty and low-wage businesses, and Silicon Valley, with booming companies like Apple and Facebook. The differences in economic performance between regions in California are far larger than the differences between California and the nation as a whole. The jobless rates in the San Joaquin Valley regions are the highest in the nation; the rates in San Francisco, San Jose, and the central coast are now lower than in New York City, Miami, Atlanta, and Chicago, and are falling faster.
If there is something uniquely debilitating about California, as the California haters keep telling us, apparently it’s not strong enough to keep the state’s most vibrant regions from outperforming some of the world’s best cities.