Another month passes, at California unemployment is still stuck at 12.4%. As reported earlier this week in our new forecast, we now expect unemployment to remain at or above 12% through the first half of 2011, and not drop below 10% until the end of 2013. Yes, that is more than 3 years from now. At 13.808 million, California payroll jobs reached a new low for this cycle, and is now 250,000 jobs below where we were when the recession "officially ended" in June 2009, and 1.4 million below the 2007 peak. Most losses are now in local governments and schools, although construction also has yet to end its 4 year slide.
The bright spot continues to be San Jose, the only place in Northern California that is clearly in recovery mode. It is being totally driven by the bounce back in the computer/tech sector, with both computer manufacturing and computer system design jobs up 5% over a year ago. Temp. employment services (likely related to the computer bus.) and private universities are also posting strong numbers. With unemployment in San Jose still topping 11%, it will be a while before their renewed growth starts spilling over to the rest of the region in a big way.
San Francisco also posted its first solid monthly report since I can remember. SF has been the biggest disapointment through the first year of recovery, as I had expected it to show a pattern more like San Jose. Scientific and professional services in the San Francisco area are finally showing the gains we have been anticipating. Don't get too excited, SF only gained 1,000 jobs back this month, and is still way down from a year ago. It will take more than one good report to clearly show a new trend.
It is in the Valley where the reports turn uglier, and it isn't surprising given the dependence of these areas on government and construction, and the relative absence of technology, R&D, and other areas fueling growth. Sacramento and Stockton took another significant step back this week, and unemployment rates across the Central Valley are all over a full percentage point above last year's level.