The spread of the delta version of COVID is slowing California’s economic recovery as it seeks to recover from the epic job losses that devastated the state at the start of the pandemic, according to the state’s leading economic forecast released Wednesday.
California’s job market growth is expected to lag behind the United States in 2021, according to the UCLA Anderson Forecast, which predicted just six months ago that the Golden State would bounce back much faster than the nation. Now, forecasters said, it will be 2022 before the state is ready to charge ahead of the country.
The latest quarterly forecast found that California had not really returned to recovery after formally reopening the economy statewide in June of this year. In fact, as measured by non-farm payroll employment, California’s job market is predicted to grow only 1.8% during the year — less than half of the 3.7% growth projected for the nationwide economy.
“The opening up of the economy does not mean a return to normalcy,” wrote UCLA Anderson Forecast Director Jerry Nickelsberg and UCLA Anderson economist Leela Bengali in their joint report on the outlook for California’s economy.
Things are looking better for California next year. According to Anderson’s forecast, total jobs in California should increase by 4.9%, while the US job market is expected to grow by 3.1%.
Nickelsberg and Bengali wrote, “Although California began a significant recovery later than some other states due to public health interventions in the state, we expect California’s recovery to eventually be faster than the US once again.” “
Still, the state must climb the Everest-sized mountain to regain the historic number of jobs lost during the government-imposed shutdown to help combat the spread of the coronavirus.
The state has recovered only 62.1% of the 2.71 million jobs it lost during March and April 2020 at the start of the coronavirus-linked shutdown. That means California would still have to add 1.03 million jobs to regain the land it lost during those two months.
Unemployment claims remain high for the first time ever, even as the state reported adding more than 100,000 jobs in August and the Bay Area reported its strongest gains in five months.
And as another measure of the weakness of California’s economy, the Anderson forecast predicted that the statewide unemployment rate would average 7.6% in 2021, falling to 5.6% in 2022 and 4.4% in 2023.
That means it could be two years before the state’s record-low unemployment rate returns to 3.9%, last achieved in February 2020. Put another way, the return to those low jobless levels isn’t even within the prediction window for Anderson. Forecast.
Forecasts warned once again that California’s battered leisure and hospitality industry will not experience the end of coronavirus-induced economic troubles any time soon.
Nickelsberg and Bengali wrote, “The leisure and hospitality sector will recover due to the depth of the decline in the sector, the slow return of demand for restaurant and bar services, and sub-sectors dependent on international tourism demand.”