California

By CONNOR GRUBAUGH
Posted 07.17.2014

While most indicators signal an economic upswing in California, the reality facing many residents of the Golden State is simple: On the ground, the recovery is still sluggish.

Nowhere is that more apparent than in a newly developed database that includes detailed economic information on each of California’s 120 legislative districts and 58 counties.

In every California county, Assembly district and Senate district, unemployment through May was at least equal to or greater than pre-recession levels, according to estimates from the CCJE’s database, which uses information derived from public and private sources.

More than six years after the Great Recession began and five years since it officially ended nationwide, no California legislator represents a constituency with a lower jobless rate than in mid-2007, before the economic downturn started, according to the database crafted by the California Center for Jobs and the Economy (CCJE).

California’s GDP grew by 2 percent in 2013, enough to surpass Italy and Russia as the world’s eighth-largest economy, according to initial estimates released this month by the World Bank and analysis by the Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy (CCSCE).

But even as most economic performance gauges have improved in recent months, the sheer depth of California’s backslide from late 2007 to 2009 — paired with the period of unsteady growth that followed — is ensuring that the unemployment and poverty rates, while trending downward, remain uncomfortably high in many areas of the state.

“Yes, California is doing better, (but) we have the potential for significantly greater growth,” said Kevin Klowden, director of the California Center of the Milken Institute, a nonpartisan economic think tank.

Combing over economic data

In every California county, Assembly district and Senate district, unemployment through May was at least equal to or greater than pre-recession levels, according to estimates from the CCJE’s database, which uses information derived from public and private sources. The Center — affiliated with the California Business Roundtable, a business advocacy and research group — developed the database as a tool to break down complex economic data for state legislators. The database was quietly unveiled in March.

“For us, it was really about trying to get folks under the Golden Dome to focus on the data,” said Kirk Clark, vice president of the California Business Roundtable. “Our thinking was, if we can break it down to their district level, (then) that personalizes it to the point where they can really engage. There are other datasets out there that look at the statewide level, or look at the county level, but we really thought if we can take it to that (the legislative district) level it would really begin to be more impactful to legislators.” The database can be accessed here.

Districts in the wealthy suburbs of California’s major coastal urban areas — including much of San Francisco, San Mateo, Marin and Orange counties, pockets of the East Bay and areas north of San Diego — have fared the best in the recovery.

The CCJE worked with figures from the U.S. Census Bureau, California Employment Development Department (EDD), Bureau of Labor Statistics and other agencies to create the database. The unemployment figures for Assembly and Senate districts were developed using data from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS), which breaks down employment and unemployment by location within a county.

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