In August, California still ranked in the top three U.S. states for high unemployment rate, according to monthly data just released by the Labor Department. The good news is that California is...number three! Nevada is still languishing with the nation's worst state unemployment rate, an alarming 12.1 percent, fully three percentage points higher than the 8.1 U.S. rate. Rhode Island and California have rates of 10.7 and 10.6 percent respectively.
That's a statistically insignificant drop of 0.1 percent for the Golden State, where the July unemployment rate was 10.7 percent.
Nevertheless, that minuscule decline continues a trend: California's unemployment rate has fallen year-over-year from 11.9 percent, putting it in a group of states that have all seen big fall-offs in joblessness since last August. And since the beginning of the year, California has added almost 300,000 new jobs.
There's plenty of evidence that the California economy is picking up speed, led by the high-tech sector. Normally, of course, out of a recession you'd expect housing to be contributing much more to the recovery. That hasn't happened this time because housing was at the core of the meltdown. But data on housing and construction over the past few months indicates that sales are improving and that prices are also regaining momentum. There's even some evidence that a price bubble may be forming in California, due to a lack of housing inventory. There aren't enough existing homes to meet demand, and new home construction has been held back by economic uncertainty.
Regionally, according the Labor Department, the West region and what it calls the Pacific "division" lead the nation in joblessness. The West had an unemployment rate of 9.4 percent in August, while the Pacific division was at 10 percent.