Silicon Valley Jobs Report: Unemployment rises as housing crash, national slowdown hit home

posted by Louise Auerhahn

Friday, January 18, 2008, at

Great news, folks -- our economic indicators are all headed up!

Within the last month:
  • Silicon Valley's unemployment rate rose to 5.1%;

  • the Labor Dept. reported U.S. inflation for the year reached a record 4.1% (highest in 17 years);

  • and the San Jose region won back our #1 spot (tied with L.A.) for the most expensive rents in the state.

Doesn't sound so great? Part of the problem is that the U.S. economy appears to be headed for a recession -- if we're not already in one. However, not everything can be blamed on the national economy. Silicon Valley faces a unique set of challenges, from familiar problems like the high cost of living to emerging issues like a shortage of affordable child care.

Today's employment report from the state shows that the San Jose metro region added 1,900 nonfarm jobs last month: the weakest performance for December since 2002. While 1,800 jobs were added in retail, several other sectors lost jobs over the month, including construction (-300 jobs), information (-400 jobs), and education & health services (-400 jobs).

Employment growth remained moderately strong over the year, with 1.4% more nonfarm jobs than in Dec. 2006. However, the declines in these three critical industries may be an indicator of troubled times ahead. (Continued...)

In another troubling sign, more people were forced into bankruptcy, with personal (non-business) bankruptcy filings in Northern California up 51% in the third quarter of 2007, compared to the same period in 2006. Even with new stricter laws making it harder for individuals to declare bankruptcy, we've seen 8,482 personal bankruptcies in No. Cal just during Jan-Sept 2007: another indicator that expensive debts, high cost of living, and inadequate wages are forcing families to take drastic measures.

Is there a silver lining in all this gloomy economic news for working families?

How about a green lining? The idea of investing public and private funds to create "green-collar jobs" is gaining more and more momentum in California and nationally. When the federal Energy Bill was passed late last month, it included a provision calling for $150 million to create the Green Jobs Corps, which aims to recruit and train Americans needing work for careers in the new green economy. Just this past week, state leaders from labor, business, government, environmental groups, and community-based organizations came together for "Advancing the New Energy Economy in California", a summit focused on how our state can take the lead in both fighting climate change and creating green jobs that will lift people out of poverty.

And economists at the Center for Economic and Policy Research suggest that the national economic slowdown may in fact provide an opportunity for creating new green jobs and helping low-income consumers save energy, through including credits for energy conservation, support for public transit operations, and heating assistance for low-income households as part of a targeted economic stimulus package. President Bush today joined in the call for an economic stimulus, but many of his proposals would do more to reward his wealthy supporters than to help the economy; hopefully more sensible heads will prevail in developing an effective plan that stimulates economic growth and helps those who most need it.

Highlights of the local jobs report:

  • The San Jose metro area added 1,900 non-farm jobs in December. Similar to November, nearly all of these jobs were added in the retail sector, likely reflecting an increase in hiring for the holiday season.

  • Over the year, the San Jose metro area added 12,800 jobs, a 1.4% increase from December 2006.

  • The biggest year-over-year gains were in educational & health services (+3,000 jobs), leisure & hospitality (+2,200 jobs), manufacturing (+2,300 jobs), trade, transportation & utilities, which includes retail (+1,700 jobs), government (+1,400 jobs), and professional & business services (+1,400 jobs).

  • The construction and financial activities sectors – both strongly tied to the housing market – showed signs of weakness, with construction adding just 100 jobs over the year and financial activities losing 100 jobs.

  • For December 2007, the region's unemployment rate stood at 5.1%, up 0.1 percentage points from last month and up 1.0 points over the year. That translates to 9,500 more unemployed residents than in December 2006.

  • Seven years after the tech crash, Silicon Valley holds 158,600 fewer jobs than it did in December 2000.

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City budget should ensure security, safety and superior services

posted by Working Partnerships USA

Monday, January 14, 2008, at

San Jose's city budget should maintain and support security and public safety, provide superior services to neighborhoods, protect the environment and encourage a vibrant cultural life in a community-friendly, efficient way, the Community Budget Working Group believes.

The Working Group's meeting Saturday produced three informed and detailed discussions that will shape its report to the City Council: "Neighborhood Services and Safety," "Efficient and Open Government" and "Increasing Revenue and Strengthening the Tax Base." The subject areas and the topics within them were distilled from the Working Group's initial meeting in December by an independent financial analyst and targeted for greater scrutiny by the public.

Working Partnerships USA, which originally convened the group, expects to produce a final report to the City Council in a few weeks.

"The City's financial situation evolved over years," said Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins, WPUSA's executive director. "We need to realize that it will also take time to solve these problems, and that it's better to take time to come up with the right solutions than the quickest ones."


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Community Budget Working Group Reconvenes Jan. 12

posted by Working Partnerships USA

Tuesday, January 8, 2008, at

A financial analysis of more than 60 public suggestions for allocating the City's resources will be presented to the Community Budget Working Group when it reconvenes at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 12 at the Northside Community Center, 488 North 6th St.

The independent financial consulting firm Applied Development Economics, hired to assess the proposals, has been working on the budget ideas for more than a month since they were generated from a standing-room only crowd at the Working Group's first meeting, which was convened by Working Partnerships USA to ensure the full community has input in the City budget process.

A package of budget suggestions will be prepared for submission to the City Council following the Jan. 12 meeting. You can see some of the ideas presented at the Working Group's first meeting here.


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