Going Nowhere Fast

California’s job market is right back where it was at the end of last year. Today’s employment report shows that the total number of jobs in the state fell to 13,808,500 in September. That means California had about 1,000 fewer jobs last month than it did in December 2009, when the state’s employment appeared to have bottomed out. In other words, the nearly 100,000 jobs California gained during the first five months of this year are now gone.

What’s going on? As we described in a blog about national employment trends last week, public sector job losses have wiped out a large share of private sector job gains. Today’s data show that this trend is far more pronounced in California than in the US as a whole. Since December, California has gained 29,200 private sector jobs and lost 30,300 public sector jobs – essentially a wash. In contrast, the nation as a whole has lost one public sector job for every three private sector jobs gained.

The overwhelming majority of California’s public sector job losses this year – 97 percent – were local government jobs. Given sharp job losses in September – the first month of the school year for many districts – it’s likely that many of the jobs lost were in public schools, which are included as part of the local government sector for the purposes of employment data collection. Local government job losses have been far deeper in California than in the rest of the US. While the state is home to about 12 percent of all local government jobs nationwide, nearly three out of 10 of the nation’s local government job losses throughout the recession (29.1 percent) were jobs lost in California.

— Alissa Anderson