Our View: State's jobless numbers sobering
California's unemployment rate for February was 10.9 percent, better than the 12 percent and higher levels of 2010. But the U.S. rate overall was much lower.
What's another 10-letter word for "stagnation"? C-A-L-I-F-O-R-N-I-A. Gov. Jerry Brown likes to enthuse about how the "California Dream" still is real. For some, it certainly is.
But the dreaming — or maybe hallucinating — can't disguise the sobering numbers coming out of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Specifically, California's unemployment rate for February was 10.9 percent — no change from January.
That's better than the 12 percent and higher levels of 2010. But the U.S. rate overall was much lower, 8.3 percent in February; also unchanged from January.
"The numbers that came out were disappointing for California," said Esmael Adibi, director of the A. Gary Anderson Center for Economic Research at Chapman University. "Together, just 5,500 jobs were created in California. That's out of more than 500,000 created in all the United States. But California is 12.9 percent of the whole U.S. economy. So we should have created about 60,000 jobs in that period."
Locally, the most recent jobless rates show Colusa County at 27.1 percent; Sutter County at 20.9 percent; and Yuba County at 18 percent. Basically, job creation in California is progressing at a far slower pace than for the nation. That's not acceptable.
What's happening, Adibi said, is that there now are "two Californias. It's not North vs. South, as in the past. Now it's East vs. West. The sluggish part is the Eastern part, beginning at Riverside, Fresno, Modesto and Sacramento. They depended on construction, but it has stalled."
By contrast, "the coastal economies are much more diversified," with computers, electronics manufacturing, medical devices, tourism and even some construction keeping things growing.
The key now, he said, is to not make matters worse through increased regulation and taxation.
Yet Gov. Jerry Brown keeps pushing his plans for $9 billion in higher sales taxes and income taxes on higher earners. Activist lawyer Molly Munger is seeking $10 billion in higher sales taxes. Both measures could be on the November ballot.
There's also an election in June, when voters will rule on Proposition 29, a $1-per-pack boost in cigarette taxes to raise about $855 million a year for cancer research.
That projected revenue assumes the new tax doesn't both suppress tobacco use — already at 15 percent in California, the second-lowest level among the states — while expanding black-market traffic in cigarettes.
We have a better idea. Nix the taxes — at least until the economy starts growing everywhere, not just along the coasts.