Late last week we learned that California’s unemployment rate dropped 0.1% in September, from 12.3% to 12.2%. That stat obscures far more than it reveals, including the fact that the 12.3% rate for August was an upward revision of the earlier reported number.
More significantly, the stat is not an accurate reflection of the job market in California. We actually lost 39,000 jobs in September. The only reason the rate appears to have dropped is that a significant number of the long-term unemployed have stopped looking for work and are no longer counted as “unemployed.
Nearly 1/3 of those lost jobs came from the public sector, as Steven Levy explained:
The state’s job losses were especially pronounced in construction, which lost 14,100 jobs over the month, and government, which lost 12,700.
Cutbacks in government employment, which includes public schools, are partly to blame for the state’s lackluster performance this month, said Stephen Levy of the Center for the Continuing Study of the California Economy.
“We are disproportionately hit in the government sector because our state and local governments are having worse budget shortfalls than in other states,” he said. (LA Times, 10/17/09)
As Atrios said, that’s not the way it’s supposed to work. Government needs to be the employer of last resort, especially in a state that has the highest unemployment levels in 60 years. When 12,700 government employees lose their jobs, that translates into less consumer spending, which in turn means pressure to lay off more workers, all of which results in less tax revenue for the state, which merely exacerbates the vicious circle.
Yet Arnold Schwarzenegger simply doesn’t care about the unemployment crisis. Instead of working to create private sector jobs through the preservation and expansion of public sector jobs, Arnold has engaged in a right-wing shock doctrine attack on the basic services of the state, an attack that was never going to succeed before the recession hit.
Once upon a time conservative Republicans claimed job creation was their #1 task, and that we had to give corporations whatever they wanted to create jobs – tax cuts, regulation cuts, etc. California did so – and as a result we have a far larger recession and unemployment numbers than we’ve ever had when Big Government supposedly ruled our political economy.
Today, you’ll hear nary a peep out of the Republican Party about jobs. Sure, the Cal Chamber will publish its list of “job killer” bills, but that’s only the public excuse to give Arnold the reason he needs to veto bills he’d have vetoed anyway. Instead you have a party that simply does not care about unemployment and the jobless. Instead, to hear Chuck DeVore tell it, the unemployed should just leave California.
California Republicans see unemployment as an unalloyed good, something to be embraced as a tool to destroy what remains of the New Deal and create a working class utterly dependent upon and unable to resist corporate power. California’s economic policy has become nothing short of kleptocracy, justified by a constant media drumbeat demanding greater spending cuts, apparently for their own sake.
It is up to Democrats and progressives, then, to make the case to California that jobs matter, that jobs are what this state desperately needs, and that Republicans have not just given up on providing jobs, but are actively cheerleading unemployment and attacking the jobless.
Of course, we don’t need jobs for their own sake. We need quality jobs, jobs that pay a living wage, jobs that are sustainable and not dependent on the latest
asset bubble Ponzi scheme. And just as we learned in the 1930s, we need government to step in and provide them – instead of actively destroying them.