Manufacturing Exports Up; Employment, Not So Much

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What are we looking at here? (Credit: KQED/Myrow)

How it is that California's exports of manufactured goods surged 20.1 percent in July compared to last year .... but California manufacturers still aren't hiring in big numbers?

A few weeks back, the Sacramento Bee explored the questions that come up when you look at a recent report like the one from Beacon Economics, an independent economic research firm, that found California's manufacturing output grew 90 percent between 1997 and 2007, compared with 35 percent in the nation overall.

Hunh, said the Bee's Darrell Smith.

There are 250,000 fewer manufacturing workers statewide than there were three years ago, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics in San Francisco.

What are we exporting? Computers and electronic products, transportation equipment, machinery and chemicals, including pharmaceuticals. "We've lost a lot of manufacturing jobs, but a lot less than in other states," Beacon Economics' Thornberg said. "California (manufacturing) is weathering the storm better than the nation overall."

So, leaving aside the productivity gains from advancing technology, where are the jobs? A study released in September by the Public Policy Institute of California blames business closures and downsizing – not moves to other states – for most of the job losses.

"Only a small fraction of the state's job losses are due to businesses leaving the state," concluded the report, which tracked employment changes and business relocation from 1992 through 2006.

p.s.  Did you guess the subject of the picture above? Here it is.  The way I see it, it does feel like we are "immersed in the midst of a cataclysmic force of nature", even though, admittedly, the global economy is a man-made thing.

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About Rachael Myrow

Rachael Myrow hosts the California Report for KQED. Over 17 years in public radio, she's worked for Marketplace and KPCC, filed for NPR and The World, and developed a sizable tea collection that's become the envy of the KQED newsroom. She specializes in politics, economics and history in California - but for emotional balance, she also covers food and its relationship to health and happiness.

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