Let me introduce to you a noteworthy slice of California’s job market – the dissatisfied worker.
It’s this good-sized group of unhappy Californians that helps explain consumer jitters, despite a largely healthy economy. You’ll find them, statistically speaking, in a gap between two job-market benchmarks.
Here’s the math: California’s official unemployment rate averaged 4.2% in the 12 months ended in June. In the same period, a very broad measure of statewide joblessness was 8.7%.
Remember, joblessness is measured by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, which polls workers. The key difference between these two workplace yardsticks is two groups: “discouraged” workers – the people who are not in the official workforce but who would work if offered a job – and the “underemployed” workers – those folks with part-time gigs who want full-time work.
My trusty spreadsheet found California’s 4.5-percentage point gap between these two rates to be the largest among the states.
Next in the dissatisfaction rankings comes Alaska with a 4.3-point gap, then New York at 4.2, New Jersey at 4.1 and Connecticut at 3.9. The smallest spread was found in Vermont and North Dakota, both at 1.6. California’s big rivals Texas and Florida had 3.3-point gaps.
High worker dissatisfaction is nothing new to California.
This gap has averaged 6.3 points over 20 years – again, the largest among the states – ahead of Oregon at 6.2, Nevada at 5.9, Washington at 5.8 and Michigan at 5.7. The lows were found in Vermont and North Dakota at 1.6. Texas was 4.5, Florida had 5.6.
The good news is that dissatisfaction is down statewide and across most of the nation, by this measurement.
California’s gap shrank by 0.3 points in the past year, one of 33 states with drops. The biggest dip was in Hawaii, off 1.5 points, then Pennsylvania and Mississippi, off 1.3. The largest increase was in New Jersey, up 0.9, then Maine, up 0.8. Texas was off 0.1 points, Florida was up 0.1.
Looking longer-term – comparing June to 20-year averages – California dissatisfaction was down 1.8 points, the No. 25 decline among the states. Dissatisfaction in all states is running below historical norms.
Michigan had the biggest drop, down 3.2 points from its average. Next were Mississippi, Washington, and Oregon at 2.9. The smallest improvement was the District of Columbia and New Jersey, off 0.5 points. Texas improved by 1.2 points, Florida, 2.3.
Despite all the talk about worker shortages and employees’ willingness to quit due to plentiful job opportunities, a significant slice of the workforce remains dissatisfied.
This numerical chasm helps explain the queasy financial feelings that don’t align with other business numbers suggesting a robust economy.
Yes, there’s high inflation, domestic political tensions and two wars overseas. A wobbly job market doesn’t help.
For example, look at the anxieties found in consumer confidence as measured by the Conference Board.
California shoppers’ optimism fell 4% during the year ended in October. It was flat nationwide. Texans were 1% more confident while Floridian optimism fell 3%.
Jonathan Lansner is the business columnist for the Southern California News Group. He can be reached at [email protected]