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California is the worst state to be out of work

At the start of 2022, Californians will be job hunting in the most-competitive employment market in the nation.

The harsh reality for anybody looking for a paycheck is not simply the state’s lofty unemployment level. California’s 6.9% jobless rate for November was an improvement from 7.3% a month earlier and 8.7% a year ago. Still, it was the highest joblessness in the nation.

More unnerving to a job seeker is California’s slow reheating from the pandemic’s economic chill, evidenced by weak prospects for work when looking on a national scale.

We now have two monthly reports to help us decipher a distressing, statewide job market. First, there’s the total jobs and employment status from the previous month, data that also delivers the local unemployment rates. And there’s also the new “Job Openings and Labor Turnover” stats that look at the “why” behind the changes: those hired, fired or quit and how many job opportunities exist. These “JOLT” figures reflect trends from two months prior.

Let my trusty spreadsheet, looking at both sets of October data, explain why job searching in California is so challenging, relatively speaking. Yes, California unemployment is at a pandemic-era low. But bosses statewide have been slow to restaff their businesses since COVID-19 iced the economy.

Who’s hiring?

Let’s first consider the modest level of job openings.

California had 1.15 million unfilled positions in October, the largest count in the nation despite being down 0.4% in a month. That translates to 64% more job opportunities than a year ago. Yes, it’s a big gain, but it’s just slightly above the average U.S. increase. Bosses nationwide had 11 million openings, up 4.1% in a month and up 61% in a year.

To be fair, many job opportunities are not always a good fit for those who are out of work. And sometimes employers are unrealistic about the candidate pool.

Still, the collective needs of employers — and desires and skills of job seekers — paint a portrait of an economy. Consider the level of openings in other ways.

For example, California’s unfilled positions equaled 6.4% of all workers. That’s the seventh-lowest share among the states, even if it’s up from 4.2% a year earlier. Nationally, openings were 6.9% of the U.S. workforce in October vs. 4.6% a year earlier.

Or compare the statewide supply of job opportunities vs. who needs a paycheck. For California’s 1.38 million unemployed, there were 83 jobs to be had for every 100 jobless workers, a national low. That makes the state the most competitive place in which to seek work. Nationally, there were 132 openings for every 100 jobless.

Next, ponder other worker-movement metrics to see why California isn’t a great place to be unemployed.

Yes, California bosses are hiring, adding 691,000 new workers in October — No. 1 among the states and up a noteworthy 5.3% in a month. But in 12 months, it’s a disappointing 5.5% improvement. The 6.5 million hires nationwide were up 7.1% in the year.

However, this flock of new staff in California equals only 4.1% of all workers — a sub-par No. 35 ranking among the states and the same as a year earlier. The nation’s 4.4% rate is up from 4.2% last year.

Be fired or quit

These comparatively weak job numbers suggest an odd dynamic when it comes to career changes, wanted or not.

California bosses fired 131,000 people in October, also No. 1 in the U.S. That’s up 8.3% in a month but off 42% in a year. Nationwide, the 1.4 million layoffs and terminations were down 2.5% in a month and down 21% in a year.

Good news: Relatively speaking, these involuntary departures have become rare. They equal just 0.8% of all California workers — only 12 states had better ratios — and that’s slightly under the nation’s 0.9% rate.

Maybe bosses won’t fire folks when they can’t find replacements.

Then there’s the job market’s hottest trend — quitting. Workers typically quit a job when they know there’s a good shot at another paycheck.

Californians are slowly warming up to the “Great Resignation” goodbyes on their own terms. In October, 396,000 people quit, the second-biggest exit numbers in the nation and up 31% in a year. Nationwide, quits were up 24% in a year.

When you look at California’s voluntary departures as a slice of its giant job market, quits were only 2.4% of all workers. That’s the eighth-lowest rate of the states and below the national 2.8% pace.

California workers still seem to think the status quo is better than job-hunting in the state’s shaky job market.

Jonathan Lansner is the business columnist for the Southern California News Group. He can be reached at

Source: Orange County Register

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