Reporting

December 14, 2012 by Ed Coghlan

Is California population growth a sign of improving economy?


California's population grew 0.7 percent since July 2011. (Photo of Newport Beach, CA by Erik Przekop/Flickr)

If you are one of thousands of Californians looking for a job, this might not be much solace, but it looks like the state's economy is slowly getting better.

One sign is that state population is continuing to slowly increase, about 1 percent a year over the last decade. That's a good sign.  

"The state recovery really started in the Bay Area, spread to Orange County and San Diego, and in the last six months, has spread to L.A. County," said Stephen Levy, director of the Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy told the LA Times. "Slow population growth is consistent with the early phase of recovery."

But California's economy is incredibly diverse, and that diversity is slowing a recovery. California's unemployment rate is still about 10 percent, although the state has added nearly 300,000 jobs from October 2011 through October 2012, and leads the nation in job growth.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the nation's unemployment rate could dip to 6.5 percent, but that high unemployment in California is one factor holding it back. California's economy is too diverse and despite a high level of job creation in Silicon Valley, other parts of the state are definitely lagging.

Doug Henton is Chairman and CEO of Collaborative Economics in San Mateo and works with the California Economic Summit, which is a regional based effort to improve job creation and the state's ability to compete in a global economy. Henton agrees that the recovery is beginning but uneven.

"Coastal regions are adding jobs much faster than inland regions," said Henton. "Some industries are growing much faster than others. Health care, professional and business services and information continue to grow rapidly. Trade and transportation jobs expand as exports grow. Even construction has started to grow again in many regions."

Public employment has been a trouble spot, especially education jobs, as budgets remain tight. The unemployment rate varies widely by region from a low of 5.8 percent in some counties in the Bay Area to over 15 percent in some counties in the San Joaquin Valley.

Your level of education is a firm predictor. Among those who graduate with a bachelor's degree, unemployment is about half the rate as those with only a high school degree.

This is why the California Economic Summit has put such as premium on education and training to help residents achieve in all regions of our state," added Henton.

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