The California Budget Project (CBP) has just released a report, “Many California Workers Are Struggling to Find Work,” that squares a bit the disconnect between the official unemployment rate and a more complete assessment of the true level of those who would like to work, but have not been able to find a job. There are some dimensions this figure does not describe that need to be considered.
Last October, California’s official unemployment rate reached a 30 year low at 4.8% and as of November it stands at 4.9%, virtually the same. But this is an artifact of the definition that the Employment Development Department (EDD) uses for “unemployment,” which does not consider those who want to work but have given up their search because they have not been able to find work.
If one factors in the 678,000 Californians who wanted to work in November but had given up their search, and adds that to the 824,000 officially unemployed Californians, the true unemployment rate is 8.1% despite the fact that the economy is in the fifth year of a recovery in this state.
There is another measure, known as the “employment rate,” also known as the employment to population ratio, which CBP suggests is “a more significant measure” because it compares the employed population of those who are 16 and older to the total population. By that measure, 62.2% of Californians were employed compared with 63.9% in 2000.
There are more telling statistics in this report–the length of unemployment and those who have part-time employment but want full time work:
Looking at the data from November, nearly one-fifth of unemployed Californians have been without work for 27 weeks or more. This figure is 19.1%, well above the five-year low of 11.7% in September of 2001. An additional 15.4% of the unemployed had been out of work for 15 to 26 weeks.
In November, 603,000 Californians who wanted full-time work were only employed part-time (defined as working less than 35 hours per week). This amounts to 3.6% of these part-time workers. The primary reasons cited by these workers were that they either could not find full-time work or that their employers could not supply this work because of insufficient demand. Add these to the unemployment rate, and that figure would be even higher.
There’s an old saying that “Figures don’t lie, but liars figure.” This is the best of times and the worst of times in California. Many of us are doing quite well, but I am sure most of us know others who are having a difficult time making ends meet in this expensive state. This includes even those who are working–some of them at more than one job.
Whether that glass if half full or half empty depends on one’s perspective. In the end, we are talking about human beings and families, not statistics. We should never forget that when we go about crafting policies in this state. “Remember the little guy.”