Dan Walters: California vs. Texas provides very stark job comparison
By Dan Walters
firstname.lastname@example.org The Sacramento Bee
Published: Sunday, Jun. 26, 2011 - 12:00 am | Page 3A
On June 17, the California Employment Development Department reported a tiny decline – just two-tenths of 1 percent – in the state's unemployment rate to 11.7 percent in May.
It was, to put it mildly, underwhelming, since a deeper look at the data reveals that the decline was not because payrolls had expanded markedly, but rather because the state's labor force had shrunk as jobless workers gave up looking for work.
California's "seasonally adjusted" non-agricultural employment had increased by a minuscule 2,000 in the preceding year while the "unadjusted data" showed a decline of 40,000 employed people from a year earlier.
The Texas Workforce Commission released a similar report on June 17 – similar in form, but decidedly dissimilar in tone.
Texas' unemployment rate was 8 percent, two-thirds of California's jobless rate, and its seasonally adjusted year-to-year job growth was a robust 2 percent (2.7 percent in private employment).
"We've added 92,300 jobs in Texas so far in 2011," said TWC Commissioner Ronny Congleton. "That is a trend that we hope to continue until all Texans have good jobs earning good wages."
Texas had fewer than a million unemployed workers in May while California had more than 2 million. Texas' jobless rate was under the national average, while California's was the second highest in the nation. Texas has accounted for nearly half of the nation's job creation since 2009.
"Growth in the Texas economy is gaining steam," says a recent analysis by the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. Clearly, Texas and other states are emerging from recession while California's recovery, if it exists, is decidedly weak, as several new economic reports note.
It means that millions of jobless workers and their families struggle to keep roofs over their heads and food on their tables.
It means that the state is paying out $600 million a month in unemployment insurance and its jobless benefit fund is already $11 billion in the red.
It means that state and local officials struggle with budget deficits and are slashing education, social and health services, police and fire protection.
California politicians are very defensive – even dismissive – about comparisons with Texas, but the economic differentials between the two states are too stark to ignore.
However they deal with the deficit-ridden state budget in the short term, Gov. Jerry Brown and legislators should move economic competitiveness to the top of their agenda.
As Chevron Corp. Vice President S. Shariq Yosufzai told a recent Sacramento conclave: "Those setting direction for the state should look around the country, determine what's working and adopt those policies here."
If California cannot attract job-creating investment and begin to recover, we'll just be fighting over scraps of a shrinking pie.
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