There are days when those of us who follow the news feel as though we’re living in a parallel universe. What else could explain the wildly divergent news stories about California’s employment figures?
On September 17, the state’s July unemployment figures were released and the reaction from Gov. Gavin Newsom was a lot of positive spin. Here is what his press office released: “California continues to lead the nation’s economic recovery, creating 44% of the nation’s new jobs in August and ranking third in the nation in rate of job growth this year. These 104,300 new jobs, the fifth time this year of six-figure job growth, represent new paychecks for Californians and new employees on payroll for businesses.”
First, it is important to note that, while the figures are correct, the premise is not. Yes, the 44% new job creation is true, but that hardly means that California is “leading the nation’s economic recovery.”
This rose-colored view of California’s economic recovery is proof of the old adage that there are three kinds of lies: Lies, damn lies, and statistics. What is lacking in this release is both context and perspective.
For those desiring a no-spin perspective of California’s true state of unemployment and other economic metrics, the California Center for Jobs and the Economy (CCJE) produces comprehensive analysis that is far more revealing than politically driven press releases.
As if responding directly to the governor’s statement, CCJE prefaces its report on the July figures with this: “While both the jobs and employment numbers have been better in recent months, they are not yet at levels that would see quick recovery in the state economy.”
This report from the parallel universe known as “reality” points out what we all know — we’re slowly going up from very far down. “[T]he state has moved off the initial bounce from the depths of the downturn,” the CCJE continues. “The pace in recent months has been positive, but that comes from looking at the numbers in isolation, not what they mean to the overall health of the California economy and its workers. Just continuing at the rates experienced over the past 3 months would not return nonfarm jobs to pre-COVID trend levels until mid-2023. The slower rate being experienced for employment would take an additional year.”
The governor’s press release fails to note the most important metric of all, overall unemployment. There, California still has the 2nd highest unemployment rate in the nation. And in even more troubling news, data on initial jobless claims just released shows that, during the week of September 18, claims in California spiked 46.9% and accounted for half the 15.2% rise seen in the national total.
The governor’s office acknowledges while “more work” needs to be done to regain the jobs lost to the pandemic, the figures reveal “promising progress for California’s economic recovery.” Newsom’s claim of “promising progress” is like the Baltimore Orioles laying claim to “promising progress” because they’ve only lost 104 games so far this season.
In addition to its useful and understandable reports on unemployment in California, CCJE also issues other reports focused on energy costs and housing issues, especially where California stands relative to other states. The data are not encouraging. CCJE’s employment report has a special section called “Califormer,” which consists of a list of the latest companies to move out of California entirely or move significant parts of their operations to other states.
Perhaps it is this part of the report that explains all the other dismal data. While Newsom fiddles with statistics, his policies are burning California jobs.
Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.