Can Anyone Save California's Jobs Crisis?

Gov. Jerry Brown hires a former bank executive as jobs czar and prepares to unveil new plans to boost job creation in struggling state.
August 19, 2011
 

From the mortgage crisis to the credit crunch to having the nation’s second highest unemployment rate, California is still neck-deep in the rubble of the current economic situation. But now in the face of this grim fiscal reality, Gov. Jerry Brown is responding to critics who say he hasn’t been doing enough to help the suffering economy.

His answer? Michael E. Rossi, the former Bank of America executive, is now an unpaid senior jobs adviser, or the state’s jobs czar. Brown appointed Rossi to be a point of connection between business, labor and the government. In this position, he’s supposed to pump life into the state’s economic infrastructure and give Brown advice on the best ways to boost job creation. But will this effort be enough to offset the national trend in the short term? According to the Los Angeles Times, economists believe these efforts and an expansion of jobs-training programs would improve the state’s economy eventually. But at the mercy of national conditions, they don’t think a quick rebound is possible.

"Governors have almost no short-term levers or tools," Stephen Levy, director of the Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy, told the L.A. Times. "They can't change interest rates, can't make international trade policy and can't run deficits."

As the article notes, Rossi also used to run the home mortgage arm of GMAC, the country's fourth-largest residential lender. GMAC's involvement with subprime loans caused the company to require a federal bailout. In any case, Allen Zaremberg, head of California’s Chamber of Commerce, thinks Rossi’s experience will help Brown identify job creation hurdles.

“The first order of business must be to do no more harm to our economy and investment climate, particularly by stopping job killing legislation or bills that hurt our competitiveness,” Zaremberg said in a statement. “The short-term agenda for job creation must include correcting the negatives in our jobs climate like our high-cost regulatory and litigation policies and bolster our positives including our exceptional higher education system.”

Brown's push for job creation plans coincides with the release of new data about child welfare, particularly on economic well-being. The latest data from the Kids Count Data Book show that more than a third of California’s nearly 10 million children are in homes where no parent has full-time, year-round employment. Additional data sets say that 7 percent of children were affected by foreclosure, compared to the nation’s 4 percent, and 13 percent of children in California had one unemployed parent, compared to the nation’s 11 percent. From the Sacramento Bee:

"The economic downturn has left California children particularly vulnerable," said Ted Lempert, president of Children Now, the Annie E. Casey Foundation's California Kids County affiliate. "Over the past few years, California children have been the target of the state's most significant, painful budget cuts, like the recent $3.3 million reduction in vision services for Healthy Families and the $300 million in permanent reductions to early learning and development programs, which will result in the loss of approximately 50,000 child care slots."

 You can read the full report here, which includes a state-by-state comparison breakdown.

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