Forty Percent of Working-Age Californians Unemployed

Michael Santo's picture

It's been said that official unemployment numbers undercut the true unemployment numbers, with many dropping off the radar as their unemployment benefits expire, and with many taking jobs that "underemploy" them. Still, this study comes as a shock, saying that 2/5 of Californians of working age are out of work.

The report, "In the Midst of the Great Recession: The State of Working California 2009," by the California Budget Project, states that less than 3/5 of California's working age adults had jobs in July 2009.

That contrasts to the official unemployment rate, which says that California's jobless rate is 11.9%.

Other highlights (or lowlights) of the report:

  • California has approximately the same number of jobs as it did nine years ago, when the state was home to 3.3 million fewer working-age individuals.
  • Nearly 178,000 Californians are expected to exhaust their jobless benefits, even though they have been extended, by the end of 2009.
  • The number of underemployed Californians has more than doubled in the last two years.
  • On average, more than one out of four unemployed Californians (28.2%) had gone without work for 27 weeks or more during the 12 months ending in July 2009, the highest level ever recorded.
  • Nearly half (47.9%) of the state’s unemployed had been jobless for at least 15 weeks.
  • Workers’ hourly wages lost purchasing power across the earnings distribution as the recession deepened. The inflation-adjusted hourly wage of the typical California worker (the worker exactly at the middle of the earnings distribution) declined by 0.5% between the first half of 2008 and the same months of 2009, while that of the state’s low-wage earners fell by 1.6%.
  • One-quarter (25.2%) of total adjusted gross income (AGI) went to the wealthiest 1% of taxpayers in 2007, nearly twice their share (13.8%) in 1993.
  • The share of income going to the top 1% of US taxpayers is at a 79-year high; the only higher share (ever) was in 1928.

In an op-ed piece, Alissa Anderson, deputy director and Jean Ross, executive director of the California Budget Project wrote that another extension of jobless benefits should be "Job One" for Congress when they return from their recess.

It's amazing, however, how many people are against extending UI further. Some call the unemployed "slackers," and it should be obvious in this "Great Recession" that corporations, rather than cutting the multi-million dollar salaries of their CEOs, many of which got us into this mess, are cutting workers left and right. Why so few, in these sorry times, thinks of the Golden Rule, is beyond me.

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