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California wages climb 12%, by calculation




California wages were growing at an annual rate of 12% last year, according to one measure, and that spike was essentially bad news.

One of my favorite economic indicators is the employment data from a quarterly analysis of bosses’ returns to UI. This analysis, which is different from the less reliable monthly surveys, takes time, so we just received the results from last summer.

What my trusty spreadsheet found in the third quarter of 2020, as the economy rebounded for the first time from pandemic lockdowns, was staggering.

California saw the largest increase in the average weekly wage in the country, from $ 157 to $ 1,466, while suffering the sixth largest job decline (9%). Still, the state is not out of this world: Nationally, average wages rose 6.8% in the year ended September while jobs fell 7.4%.


No, employers weren’t very generous to those who were still at work, although some workers were earning more than usual. The Econ 101 has also not been suspended because herds of unemployed are expected to lower wages, right?

On the contrary, this statistically remarkable big wage twist is actually another symbol of the cruelty of the pandemic economy. Low-wage jobs have been decimated by pandemic restrictions and the reluctance of consumers to travel or spend in person.

Remember that the economic parameters can be distorted by the composition of the participants. In this case, far fewer small paychecks have been reinstated by the economic recovery. This huge gap has given a boost to the overall average salary and not to the individual salary for those lucky enough to be employed.

Think about this report’s portrait of labor employment in the leisure and hospitality industries, as many “fun” places in California are slowly getting back on their feet. This world has been rocked by the coronavirus.

Remember that businesses from tourism to entertainment to restaurants are a big part of the economy. California had 1.35 million such workers last summer, 8.4% of its workforce. Across the rest of the country, 11.28 million “fun” workers accounted for 9.2% of all jobs. But that niche also had a huge share of last summer’s job declines.


California lost 689,538 “fun” jobs in the year ended September, compared to 940,336 jobs cut at all other companies. These “fun” jobs therefore accounted for 42% of all cuts in California. The rest of the country lost 3.27 million “fun” jobs, or 38% of all US cuts.

Now, if you like percentages, those declines translate to 34% of fun jobs in California, a much bigger drop than the 6% of job losses elsewhere in the state economy. Nationally, 22.5% of fun jobs have disappeared compared to 4.5% for other businesses.

Paychecks from “fun” work are often small. Last summer, people lucky enough to work in California’s entertainment and hospitality industries received an average weekly wage of $ 619, 60% less than $ 1,544, paid by other employers across the country. State. Elsewhere in the United States, the weekly wage of $ 466 was 72% lower than the $ 1,202 paid in other workplaces.

The bizarre pay oddity linked to huge declines in lower-paid workers can also be seen here. Weekly wages in California’s “fun” industries rose 4.6% despite losing about a third of their jobs. Note: This is less than half of the 12% statewide average gain. In the rest of the country, wages rose only 0.6% for “fun” workers.

You can see how pain was everywhere for those who create “pleasure” for a living.

You also see that the bizarre form of economic destruction from the coronavirus primarily crushing lower-paying, consumer-oriented work that couldn’t be done remotely has created business models that don’t easily come down to one number.

Believe me, this isn’t the only financial data loaded with pandemic subplots.

Jonathan Lansner is an economics columnist for the Southern California News Group. He can be contacted at [email protected]

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