For months, Gov. Gavin Newsom habitually crowed about California’s recovery from the recession that hit the state when he shut down much of its economy to battle COVID-19.
By cherrypicking monthly employment statistics, Newsom claimed that the state was leading the nation in job gains, even when California’s unemployment rate was near the highest of any state, topping out at 16.1% with more than 2.6 million Californians having lost their jobs.
Finally, however, Newsom can legitimately hail an almost full employment recovery. In July, the state’s unemployment rate dropped to 3.9%, exactly the record-low number that California achieved in February 2020, just before he issued the first of his shutdown orders.
Total employment in July was still a bit lower than it was 28 months earlier, 18.8 million vs. 18.6 million, but the labor force was also a little smaller, 19.5 million vs. 19.3 million, and virtually every private economic sector saw full employment recovery. Government was the only major sector still lagging, about 100,000 workers fewer than it had been.
“California is getting very close to fully recovering all the jobs it lost due to the pandemic,” Taner Osman, research manager at Beacon Economics and the UC Riverside Center for Economic Forecasting. “In fact, if we repeat this month’s job gains next month, we will reach that milestone.”
“Californians are getting back to work with record low unemployment,” Newsom said when July’s data were released this month. “We have historic reserves and we’re putting money back in peoples’ pockets as we continue to lead the nation’s economic recovery.”
About the Author
Dan Walters has been a journalist for nearly 60 years, spending all but a few of those years working for California newspapers. He began his professional career in 1960, at age 16, at the Humboldt Times. For more columns by Walters, go to calmatters.org/commentary.
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