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Nearly 10 Percent Of Californians Still Underemployed

Keith Srakocic / AP

Keith Srakocic / AP

A new analysis of U.S. Census data shows California’s recovery from the Great Recession is not yet complete. Many Californians still aren’t working as much as they want to.

We hear a lot about California’s unemployment rate – 5.9 percent at last check. But that doesn’t tell us how many Californians are underemployed – for example, people who are only working part-time but want to work full-time. (The two stats aren't an apples-to-apples comparison, because they measure different pools of potential workers.)

“As of June of this year, 91 percent of Californians were working at their desired capacity,” says Luke Reidenbach with the California Budget and Policy Center, the progressive group that did the analysis.

Reidenbach says economists call the measurement a way of measuring how many people's labor is being fully utilized. “Which is a way that we prefer not to explain it,” he adds. 

Fortunately, there’s a cool-sounding acronym: ZPOP, for “Utilization-to-Population Ratio.” California’s 91 percent ZPOP this past June is up from 85 percent at the worst part of the Great Recession – but, Reidenbach says, not yet back to the 94-percent pre-recession high.

That's “another indication that this is not an economy that’s working for everybody,” he says, pointing also to weak wage growth for low- and mid-wage workers and a persistently high poverty rate.

Ben Adler

Capitol Bureau Chief

Capitol Bureau Chief Ben Adler first became a public radio listener in the car on his way to preschool – though not necessarily by choice. Now, he leads Capital Public Radio’s state Capitol coverage, which airs on NPR stations across California.  Read Full Bio 

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