Workers leaving California labor force even as unemployment stays near record lows

Jul 23, 2018

California’s unemployment rate remains at a record low of 4.2 percent in the latest jobs report. But a closer look shows 2018 has not exactly been a banner year for the state’s labor market.

Make no mistake: The California economy is historically strong right now — in its 99th consecutive month of expansion since the recession bottomed out in 2010.

“We’ll look back on this time in California as a very rare time of fuller employment," said Michael Bernick, a fellow at the Milken Institute who used to run the state agency that puts out these jobs reports. "At the same time, the labor force participation rate of prime-age adults, particularly men, is the lowest it’s been.” 

In fact, although the unemployment rate has held steady or dropped every month this year, the civilian labor force has lost 50,000 workers since February. And most months’ job gains this year have been minimal — including a paltry 800 new jobs last month.