Unemployment Numbers are Inching down, But…

If only the movement were swifter - a torrent rather than what still feels like a trickle. Of course, it’s welcome tidings that the state’s unemployment rate has ticked down 0.4% from 9.4% to an even 9% in April. That makes the Golden State one of three highest over-the month changes (along with New York and South Carolina, both of which also notched .4% declines per the Bureau of Labor Statistics. 35 states and the District of Columbia had job rates that were “not measurably different from a month earlier.” We’re also looking good from a year ago when, in April of 2012, we boasted a 10.7% unemployment rate.  According to the California Employment Development Department (EDD), California added 71,000 jobs from March to April and we’re up 443,000 jobs from the employment total of April 2012.

A bit of perspective is in order. It’s easier to chart improvement when you’re looking up from the bottom (just ask those last place L.A. Dodgers). In April, California had the fourth highest unemployment rate of any state behind Nevada (9.6%), Illinois (9.3%) and Mississippi (9.1%).

The federal numbers, which came out earlier this month, showed the nation hovering at 7.5% with employment increasing in professional and business services, food service and drinking, retail trade and health care. The number of long term unemployed (27 weeks or longer out of work) fell by 258,000 to 4.4 million. Over the past 12 months, the number of long-term unemployed has decreased by 687,000.

The 165,000 new jobs, combined with an adjustment of February and March totals to reflect 114,000 new positions, had forecasters heaving sighs of relief that the nation continues on its path toward economic recovery.  7.5% unemployment is the nation’s lowest since December of 2008.

More perspective? Glad you asked. In an excellent research brief just published by the UCLA Institute for Research on Labor and Employment titled “California Crisis: The Ups and Downs of Recovery – Where Have the Unemployed Workers Gone?”, Dr. Lauren Appelbaum (A former JVSWorks guest blogger) notes that job creation is not keeping pace with the figures needed to constitute an actual recovery.

“After the end of the recession, the country needed to recover not only the jobs lost and not created during the recession, but also create nearly 100,000 additional jobs each month to keep up with the continued growth of the working age population,” Appelbaum writes. “That means, for the United States to have as many jobs in April 2013 as it would have had without the recession, there should have been 14.2 million jobs created during the recovery thus far.”

There are still, Appelbaum notes, 22 million people unemployed, under-employed or who have stopped looking for jobs but would be available if one came open. “It is great that the U.S. will soon be entering its fourth year of recovery from the recession. But if we want the economy to truly be healthy, we need to recover from the jobs crisis by bringing back those workers who have disappeared and reconnecting them to decent jobs and to our economic community.”