Dan Walters

By Dan Walters
dwalters@sacbee.com
September 26, 2015

  • Seemingly low jobless rate masks reality
  • High underemployment, poverty plague state
  • Children are especially affected by trends

Federal officials released three major economic reports this month and together, they paint a dark picture of California.

Superficially, the monthly employment report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) was good news.

California added 36,300 jobs in August, 470,000 in one year and more than 2 million since the recovery began. The unemployment rate, which had topped 12 percent during the recession, dropped to 6.1 percent in August.

Meanwhile, the Census Bureau reported that California’s official poverty rate for 2014 was 16.3 percent, somewhat higher than the national rate of 14.7 percent.

Finally, a Bureau of Economic Analysis report on regional economies revealed that outside the red-hot San Francisco Bay Area, California’s economy trailed national expansion last year, and several rural areas actually saw declines.

Taken together, the voluminous data dumps reveal that those on the upper rungs of the economic ladder, and the communities in which they cluster, particularly in the Bay Area, are doing well. However, very large portions of the state, both geographically and sociologically, are struggling.

Take that 6.1 percent jobless rate. As low as that may seem, it’s still the ninth-highest among the states, a full percentage point higher than the national average and 50 percent higher than Texas’ 4.1 percent.

Among the nation’s 387 Bureau of Labor Statistics “metropolitan statistical areas,” nine of the 10 with the highest unemployment rates are in California, topped by 24.2 percent in Imperial County.

Among the nation’s 51 largest MSAs, the Riverside-San Bernardino region is dead last at 7.1 percent, yet environmental groups want to block a proposed new warehouse complex (and its jobs) in Riverside County.

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