More Grim News on the Economy

If you can stomach more bad news about the economy, read on. Data released today by the Employment Development Department show that California’s job market continues to weaken. The state’s unemployment rate reached 10.5 percent in February – up by four-tenths (0.4) of a percentage point from January and 4.3 percentage points from February 2008. Of the nearly 2 million Californians who were unemployed in February, more than one out of five (23.1 percent) had been without work for 27 weeks or more, compared with 16.9 percent 12 months earlier.

Today’s data release also shows a rise in the number of Californians who are working part-time “involuntarily” – either because they’ve had their hours cut or because they can’t find full-time work. More than 1 million Californians fell into this category in February, up by 368,000 (52.0 percent) from one year ago.

On top of the grim labor market news, data from the Department of Finance show that in the fourth quarter of 2008, California’s taxable sales were down by 16.3 percent from the same quarter of the prior year – the largest decline on record, and the data go back to the 1960s. This drop in taxable sales is particularly troubling because the less people buy, the less businesses produce, and the fewer workers those businesses employ.

In light of today’s news, this new CBP publication on the federal funding available to expand Unemployment Insurance in California couldn’t be more timely.

–Alissa Anderson