STEVE CHIOTAKIS: The nation’s unemployment rate fell again in March to 8.8 percent. Today’s report from the Labor Department could indicate a jobs recovery may be taking hold. While there were big gains in private sector employment, government jobs took a hit — losing a net 14,000 last month. But the report bodes well for most areas of the country — including across the western U.S.
Steven Levy is director of the Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy. Good morning.
STEVEN LEVY: Good morning.
CHIOTAKIS: How does employment in the West play into these numbers?
LEVY: In Silicon Valley, pretty robust tech hiring. Actually Silicon Valley led the state in job growth in the past year and that’s continuing. Throughout the broader West, agriculture and mining are just very robust sectors because of the huge commodity demand. It’s very good throughout the West.
CHIOTAKIS: Western states, and correct me if I’m wrong, they relied on — heavily on — construction right? In the boom times, to keep those unemployment numbers down, right? I mean, is the fact that there’s not a whole lot of construction going on now — is that hurting?
LEVY: The unemployment rate in California is worse than in the nation almost exclusively because of the huge construction decline. And that makes the job gains reported recently even more remarkable because we’re doing it with now bounce in construction.
CHIOTAKIS: You know we’re still seeing government layoffs in these numbers and we hear a lot about the budget showdowns, like especially what’s going on here in California. Are these story lines, do you think, connected?
LEVY: Right, the huge recession produced a great drop in revenues. The large drop in construction devastated cities and counties that were counting on that sales tax and property tax money. We have then layoffs in the government sector. It’s a drag on the economy like construction. Again you could put a good news focus on it in saying it’s amazing that we’re doing that well given that these two big sectors will continue to be struggling for at least another year.
CHIOTAKIS: Steven Levy, director
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