Dan Walters

By Dan Walters
12/30/2014 10:43 PM

California is ending the year on an economic high note, having recovered all of the jobs it lost during the Great Recession and seeing employment continuing to expand.

The state has gained 1.5 million jobs since recovery began five years ago and unemployment has declined from 12-plus percent to 7.2 percent.

With expanding payrolls, consumer spending has increased and state and local government revenue has rebounded sharply.

Low inflation, low interest rates and declining fuel prices contribute to consumer confidence and having crunched the numbers, public and private economists see more good times ahead, at least for the next couple of years.

So what’s not to like?

Both the recession and recovery have revealed some fundamental faults in California’s $2-plus trillion economy along geographic, economic sector and sociological lines.

The recovery has been largely concentrated in coastal communities, for example, while much of inland California still experiences double-digit unemployment rates.

It’s also been concentrated in a few economic sectors, such as health care, hotels and technology. Employment in others, such as construction, manufacturing and retail trade, is still below its pre-recession peak, as Beacon Economics points out in a recent economic analysis.

The Public Policy Institute of California, meanwhile, notes that despite a sharp decline in the state’s unemployment rate, it still has the nation’s third-highest rate.

Moreover, by a more nuanced measure of employment, which includes discouraged and underemployed workers, California has the nation’s highest rate of “labor underutilization,” 15.2 percent.

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