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New California jobs figures show pickup in government employment

June 21, 2013|By Marc Lifsher
  • Cora Riegel sorts California tax returns while working at the Franchise Tax Board in Sacramento.
Cora Riegel sorts California tax returns while working at the Franchise… (Laura Morton / For The Times )

SACRAMENTO -- Government workers usually weather economic downturns with little damage, but that hasn't been the case with the Great Recession of 2008-09 and its aftermath.

However, things may be starting to look up: After remaining flat for the previous 11 months, the government part of the California economy added a net 8,400 jobs in May, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics figures.

One factor is that with a new, balanced state budget approved and in the black, schools, community colleges and state universities have a more secure funding source and can bring back pink-slipped teachers.

Quiz: How much do you know about California's economy?

"Teachers feel more secure with their jobs," said Sylvia Juarez, 35, a Spanish teacher with the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Juarez was laid off as an independent studies teacher in June of 2012 but was rehired to teach Spanish at Eagle Rock High School at the end of October.

"This spring, nobody I know actually received a pink slip," she said. "Things have gotten better."

The number of people working for local, state and federal government institutions fell 6% -- 147,000 jobs from a pre-recession high of 2.53 million in July 2008.

It hit a low of 2.36 million in October 2012, and, since, has inched up by a slight 18,500 jobs to 2.38 million in May.

"Government budgets have been pretty constrained the last few years," said Dennis Meyers, principal economist for the California Department of Finance, "but it's starting to look better and, hopefully, has bottomed out and started to recover."

An ongoing upswing in government hiring could be fueled by Gov. Jerry Brown's signature on a $96.3-billion state budget for the spending year that begins July 1.

The spending plan, bolstered by a voter-approved tax hike and an improved state economy, will inject hundreds of millions of new dollars into public schools. More modest amounts of increased spending are earmarked for health and welfare programs that had been cut in recent years. 

"The 2013-14 fiscal year budget contemplates increased spending," said Jerry Nickelsburg, an economist with the UCLA Anderson Forecast. A big part of that is earmarked for schools, he said.

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