California said Friday it had recovered all of the 2.7 million jobs it lost at the start of the pandemic, a moment that normally would celebrate the end of a downturn but instead was tempered by signs of a wobbly economy marked by layoffs in the state's historically strong tech industry. The 56,700 new jobs California employers added in October was enough to push the state past the symbolic milestone, led by strong gains in the health care, professional services, and leisure and hospitality industries. California has now had positive job growth for 13 consecutive months, the AP reports.
"The pandemic was one of the largest loss of jobs that we have experienced in history," said Sung Won Sohn, an economics professor at Loyola Marymount University, adding, "so to me, this is a significant milestone." Despite the job gains, state officials warn of a possible economic recession. Inflation remains high. The Federal Reserve increased a key interest rate, which has had a chilling effect on the rest of the economy. Some of Silicon Valley's best-known companies—Facebook, Lyft, Cisco, Salesforce—have announced layoffs. And state officials anticipate a $25 billion budget deficit next year. "California has now fully recovered all jobs that were lost to the pandemic-induced recession, but we know this isn't the finish line," Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a statement. Those competing messages have made it difficult to interpret the health of the state's economy, which if it were a separate country would be the fifth largest in the world.
California's pandemic job recovery was faster than previous downturns, including the Great Recession, said Michael Bernick, a former director of the California Employment Development Department who is now an attorney. But California has been slower to recover jobs compared to the rest of the country. "To some extent, we are lagging behind the US economy," Sohn said. "The tech sector used to be the workhorse of California's economy, generating employment. And now it's become a drag." Zachary Davis, who co-owns four ice cream locations and a café in Santa Cruz, laid off 70 of his 75 employees at the start of the pandemic. More than two years later, the shop has 85 workers. "Some things are better, some things are worse. Everything is different," Davis said. "I certainly don't feel like we're back to where we were."
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