California’s Economy Has Been Pinched by Unemployment


It’s Monday. The Golden State’s unemployment rate remains stubbornly high. Plus, the Yimby movement isn’t just for liberals anymore.

Tech layoffs. Hollywood strikes. Rural joblessness.

For much of the past year, key parts of the California economy have looked a lot like our winter weather: dreary.

While the state’s economy has long outpaced the economies of most nations, the unemployment rate in California has risen significantly over the past year — a topic I explored in a recent article about California’s economic outlook.

The state’s 5.1 percent unemployment rate in December was a percentage point higher than a year earlier, and well above the national rate of 3.7 percent. The only state faring worse than California was Nevada, at 5.3 percent, according to recently revised figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

(The national rate rose to 3.9 percent in February; state-by-state figures for January and February aren’t available yet.)

California’s unemployment rate is usually above the U.S. average because of its young and fast-growing work force, but in the early part of the pandemic recovery, the gap was smaller — 4 percent in California in May 2022, compared with 3.6 percent in the nation.

Since then, a wave of deep cuts has hit workers at several big tech companies, and entertainment-related employers have only slowly begun to rebound from the Hollywood strikes last year. The unemployment rate in Los Angeles County is around 5 percent.

In more rural stretches of the state, including Imperial County along the Mexican border, where agriculture is a key economic engine, the unemployment rate is in double digits — roughly 18 percent, up 3.1 percentage points from a year earlier.

The state has seen job growth in education and health care, and in the leisure and hospitality industries.

But Kevin Klowden, an executive director at the Milken Institute, an economic research organization in Santa Monica, said Hollywood would take months, if not years, to return to the way it looked before the strikes. Some restaurants and other small businesses that relied on workers involved in television and film production will probably never reopen, he said.

Nearly 25,000 workers in Los Angeles lost their jobs in Hollywood during the strikes, according to a report in December by the Otis College of Art and Design.

Elyse Jackson is one of those workers.

An art department coordinator on feature films in Los Angeles, Jackson told me that she had hoped to find work soon after the strikes ended last fall. She has taken on $15,000 in debt in recent months and has applied for dozens of administrative jobs around Southern California. But she hopes to return to Hollywood sets.

“The rehiring and new productions,” she said, “have just been so slow.”

Kurtis Lee is an economics correspondent based in Los Angeles.

The surprising left-right alliance that wants more apartments in suburbs.

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Tell us at Please include your name, the city where you live and a few sentences on why you think your song deserves to be included.

Like the start of so many Los Angeles love stories, Talia Bernstein and Kristen Zublin met at an improv class.

The pair hit it off and began spending time together, even after the class ended, often talking late into the night. All the while, Bernstein was nursing a secret crush on Zublin. After months of pining, Bernstein finally made her move at a mutual friend’s gathering in December 2015. As Adele’s “Send My Love (To Your New Lover)” played in the background, she nuzzled into Zublin’s neck and to her delight, Zublin didn’t move away.

After the encounter, Bernstein invited Zublin over to her home for a date, but Zublin, who had limited relationship experience, missed the cue. “This is a date,” Bernstein recalled telling Zublin. Once the confusion was resolved, though, sparks flew and over the next few months, the romance between the two women flourished as they bonded over a shared love of writing and similar career goals.

Then, in early 2023, over breakfast burritos in their L.A. apartment, Zublin asked Bernstein if she wanted to get married. This time, Bernstein was the one who misunderstood, answering hypothetically. Zublin corrected her: “I was like, ‘No. Will you marry me?’”

A tearful yes ensued, and last month the couple tied the knot in a ceremony at the Deering Estate in Miami, all thanks to improv and the magic of a good Adele song.

Thanks for reading. We’ll be back tomorrow.

P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword.

Soumya Karlamangla, Maia Coleman and Briana Scalia contributed to California Today. You can reach the team at

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