By Michael Bernick
Over the past year, I’ve been engaged in a research project on the transformation of employment in California since World War II. The project has involved research on the shifting employment relations in California (particularly the breakdown of the employer-employee relation and rise of contingent employment) as well the ebbs and flows of job creation and employment.
The chart below shows the growth and decline of total payroll jobs in California during the five recent Governors, beginning with Jerry Brown …
Among the storylines:
1. Job growth has been strong during the 35 year period under all Governors: Despite several ups and downs during the past 35 years, overall job growth has soared from 7.7 million payroll jobs in January 1975 to a high water mark of 15.2 million payroll jobs in July 2007, and around 14 million payroll jobs today. Job growth has been strong under all of the Governors, including Governor Schwarzenegger, until the current Recession.
2. Job growth was strongest during the 8 years of Jerry Brown’s Administration: The greatest job growth in absolute terms was during the eight years of Governor Deukmejian, when 2.7 million jobs were added. However, the more revealing job number is California’s job growth as percentage of national job growth. This was highest during the 8 years of Governor Brown, when California’s job growth of nearly 2 million jobs totaled 17% of the total payroll jobs added in the United States. California’s percentage of job growth has not been as high since that time.
3. Each of the 5 Governors has seen job growth in California undermined by major downturns in the national economy: In the last year of the Brown Administration, the national economy encountered its worst economic downturn since World War II, with national unemployment climbing to 10.8% in December 1982 (and California unemployment at a corresponding 11%). Similarly, Governor Wilson saw state unemployment climb to 9.9% in December 1992, as the national unemployment rose to 7.4%. For the first nearly three years of Governor Schwarzenegger’s tenure, job growth averaged over 235,000 jobs annually. Since the current national Recession started in mid-2007, California has averaged over 300,000 jobs lost annually, and unemployment today stands at 12.3%, following the rise of the national rate to 9.5%.
Marc Lifsher of the Los Angeles Times recently made reference to the job numbers noted above in a short posting in the newspaper’s online edition. This posting immediately brought forth claims of partisanship by the Whitman campaign, which has been trying to portray Brown as a “job killer”. Fair enough. If the Whitman campaign can show that these numbers are inaccurate or misleading, such should be done.
I have known and periodically supported Jerry Brown since serving as a summer law school intern in the office of his State and Consumer Services Secretary, Leonard Grimes, in 1978. I recall well the job debates and policies of the 1970s and early 1980s. There was then and remains today a real and destructive anti-business wing of the Democratic Party in California. But Brown was not a part of it then, and he is not remotely part of it today.
Michael Bernick is the Former California Employment Development Department Director and Milken Institute Fellow. This piece was first published at Fox & Hounds.