Gov. Brown punts on jobs creation

April 30, 2012

By Joseph Perkins 

California Gov. Jerry Brown appeared on CBS’s “Face the Nation” yesterday, during which he listed items “right at the top” of the state agenda, including pension reform, renewable energy, the California water plan and high-speed rail. 

The governor neglected to include jobs creation on the list, despite the Golden State’s 11 percent unemployment rate, the nation’s third highest. 

Indeed, while California has gained 385,900 jobs since the state’s economic recovery began in September 2009, more than 2 million working-aged residents remain unemployed, according to the state Employment Development Division. 

The challenges facing the state’s long-term unemployed — those out of work six months or longer — will become even more daunting as of May 12, EDD confirmed last week. 

That’s when about 93,000 idle workers will lose as many as 20 weeks of extended federal unemployment benefits under the FED-ED program. Another 100,000 who might have qualified for the benefit by year’s end will no longer be eligible. 

Brown has not focused as much on jobs as on the issues he mentioned on “Face the Nation” Sunday. But he did, in fact, propose an eight-point jobs plan when he campaigned for the state’s highest office in 2010, and yet another plan last year. 

Brown’s 2010 plan called for state investment in renewable energy technology that, he said, would stimulate “creation of more than half a million green jobs” by 2020. His 2011 “Jobs First” plan promised to create jobs by closing a tax loophole that, the governor said, benefited out-of-state corporations at the expense of California businesses. 

Brown never got around to presenting his eight-point jobs plan to the Legislature for its consideration. And, while he introduced his Jobs First plan last summer, it died in the Legislature. 

Nevertheless, the governor continues to express optimism that California will eventually replace the jobs it lost during the state’s economic downturn. 

In an appearance last week at the annual CEO Summit hosted by the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, the governor reiterated his view that the nascent clean technology industry — which currently accounts for less than 2 percent of California jobs — will eventually become one of the state’s biggest employers. 

“Electric is small, solar is small, high-speed rail is small,” said Brown. “But so was Fairchild, so was Intel, so was Hewlett-Packard, so was Steve Jobs. We want to plant the seeds that will bring forward a vast forest of new technologies.” 

It remains to be seen whether cleantech fulfills Brown’s lofty expectations. Even if it does, it won’t generate enough green jobs over the next several years to have more than a negligible effect on California’s jobless rate. 

Indeed, in a rather grim report last month, the UCLA Anderson Forecast projected that California’s jobless rate will remain above the national average through at least the end of 2014, and that unemployment in some parts of the state will not return to pre-recession levels until 2016.

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