Where Sacramento stands in the unemployment line
“Osama bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive!” This is Vice President Joe Biden and the Obama administration’s answer to the question, “Are you better off than you were four years ago?”
Considering the anemic job growth numbers released the day after the Democratic National Convention, they’re going to have to come up with a better slogan than that.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m pleased that Osama bin Laden is dead. Well, not exactly pleased, I wish they’d brought him in alive for interrogation and trial. I’m overjoyed that the auto bailout saved up to a million auto industry jobs, from assembly line workers to parts suppliers.
But my own situation? I’m not too excited about that.
I have been unemployed for the past two-and-half years. After losing my job in April 2010, I collected unemployment benefits for 99 weeks, until those benefits were exhausted. I have applied for literally hundreds of full-time jobs during this time period, and although I’ve come close to being hired on several occasions, I’ve had no luck so far.
The one saving grace in this entire ordeal has been the knowledge that I am absolutely, positively not alone, especially here in Sacramento.
In July, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the unemployment rate in the Sacramento metropolitan area was 10.6 percent, compared to the national rate of 8.3 percent. Sacramento saw a .2 percent drop from June and a 1.4 percent decrease from the previous year. Overall in Sacramento, there’s been a 2.3 percent drop in unemployment since it peaked at 12.9 percent in September 2010.
In more human terms, that means 110,730 Sacramentans are currently unemployed, down from the high of 131,838 unemployed recorded by the BLS in October 2010.
So there’s been some improvement, albeit sluggish, much like the nation’s ongoing economic recovery from the 2007-2008 recession. Out of 372 major metropolitan areas ranked by the BLS, Sacramento currently comes in 328th place in the percentage of unemployed.
It gets worse. Those numbers don’t tell the whole story. The unemployment rate doesn’t count discouraged workers who have stopped searching for work, workers who are marginally attached to the workforce (like me), and workers who because of economic reasons work only part time. Add those to the pot and you get what is called the “real rate of unemployment.”
In California the real rate of unemployment is currently a staggering 20.6 percent. The BLS does not provide a figure for Sacramento, but since the city’s unemployment rate has paralleled the state’s throughout the recession, it seems reasonable to estimate the real rate of unemployment in Sacramento is approximately 20 percent.
To put that in perspective, unemployment during the Great Depression was 25 percent.
No, I am not alone. Some 200,000 denizens of the Sacramento area are more or less in the exact same boat with me. Either they can’t find full- or part-time work or they have simply stopped looking.
But while I do take some comfort in numbers, I’m also well aware that these folks aren’t just my unemployed sisters and brothers, they’re my competitors in an incredibly limited job market. Fortunately, I have some advantages.
For one, I have a bachelor’s degree. According to the BLM, the national unemployment rate for person holding a college degree is 4.1 percent. Those with high school diplomas have an 8.8 percent unemployment rate; those without diplomas have a 12 percent unemployment rate.
For another, I’m white. The unemployment rate for whites is 7.2 percent, compared to 10.2 percent for Latinos and 14.1 percent for African-Americans. Statistically, I’d be better off if I was Asian, since they have an unemployment rate of 5.9 percent.
Finally, I’m in the 45-54 age group, which has an unemployment rate of 6.4 percent, compared to 8.3 percent for those in 25-34 age group. Take that, you young whippersnappers.
In reality, I doubt that my demographic advantages will help me attain full-time employment anytime soon. That’ll probably come down to dumb luck. In the meantime, if unemployment is going to be brought under control, it’s going to take a concerted effort between local, state and national legislators to repair the flaws in our economic system that led to the crisis in the first place.
It’s certainly going to take a lot more than “Osama bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive.”