The Breakdown | Explaining Southern California's economy
Business & Economy

Comparing California's economic growth to the US and the world

Take a look at how their economies would stack up if California and L.A. County were countries.
Take a look at how their economies would stack up if California and L.A. County were countries.

The Commerce Department released its figures for second-quarter U.S. GDP growth this morning. Growth was weak, and that's something to worry about. But it's also an opportunity to compare U.S. growth with California's, and to compare California's to the rest of the world.

Conveniently, the LAEDC recently compiled this data into a nice, neat chart (above). It actually isn't technically possible to compare the GDP of a U.S. state with the GDP of a country, but for the sake of argument you can pretend that California is a country, just to get a sense of how we're doing. Besides, California's economy is so large — nearly $2 trillion in the context of a $15-trillion-plus U.S. economy — that it's routinely talked about as if it were a country.

Indeed, if it were a stand-alone economy, California would be the world's ninth largest, coming in just above Russia and just below Italy. But let's compare California to the rest of the world in terms of growth. First off, the Golden State saw growth last year that was actually better than the U.S. — 2 percent for Cali, versus 1.8 percent for the U.S. 

But California also out-grew every country above it except Germany, Europe's powerhouse; global powerhouse China; and Brazil, the powerhouse of Latin America. And within California, Los Angeles County, with growth for 2011 at 1.8 percent, did likewise. 

And if you look at the rest of the developed world, both California and Los Angeles County are outperforming the pack. Better than France. Better than the U.K. Better than Italy. Better than Spain.

This is translating into an unemployment rate in California that, although high at 10.7, is falling faster than the national rate, which isn't going to drop very much if at all with GDP growth hovering around 2 percent. 

So if you look at the very big picture, with much of Europe in recession or flirting with it, California (the country) isn't doing all that badly. In fact, under the circumstances — a world economy that's still shaking off the financial crisis and in Europe entering a new phase — California is doing pretty well.

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