As Bill Hobbs is quick to point out, employment is increasing even though payroll surveys aren't showing it yet -- a lot of people are reporting that they're working for themselves, and those jobs won't show up on surveys of corporate employers. That's the good news.

The bad news -- if you believe the Los Angeles Times, which I'm nervous about doing -- is that many of the jobs being created are in low-pay sectors of the economy.

California is being hit hard by a recent nationwide shift of jobs from high-paying industries to lower-paying sectors such as retail sales and tourism, a trend that doesn't bode well for the economy, according to a report released Wednesday.

The report by the Washington-based Economic Policy Institute paints a picture of a state and national economy in which employment growth is being driven largely by low-skilled service jobs.

In Los Angeles, according to the preliminary results of another study, the shift is particularly pronounced because so many new jobs are in the "underground" cash economy of laborers who aren't counted in government statistics. These very low-wage workers — people who do yardwork or clean houses or wash dishes — might account for as much as 15% of all jobs in the metropolitan area, said Dan Flaming of the Economic Round Table, which is conducting its study for the city.

This sounds like exactly the types of jobs Mr. Hobbs is talking about, but they aren't glamorous work-from-home/telecommute jobs, they're manual labor.
Chapman said California lost 127,000 manufacturing jobs and 55,000 jobs in the information sector from November 2001 to November 2003. Meanwhile, the leisure and hospitality sector gained 48,000 jobs, retail trade grew by 32,000 and health and education, which includes day-care teachers and low-wage hospital crews, grew by 65,000.
Of course, there's another interpretation, which the Times generously provides:
Ron Bird, an economist with the Employment Policy Foundation, an employer-funded research group in Washington, offered a different assessment of the numbers. He divides job growth by broad categories of occupation — such as manager or production worker — instead of by sector, as the Economic Policy Institute did.

By his measure, Bird said, the growth appeared to favor higher-paying jobs. He said the highest growth was in office and administrative jobs and in installation, maintenance and repair jobs, both of which pay higher-than-average wages.

"The jobs where the growth was had higher average earnings," said Bird, whose analysis looked only at full-time jobs and did not break down the data by state. "It's a matter of looking at the glass as half empty or more than half full."

I'm not sure how these two perspectives can be reconciled, so it's hard to say what the truth is. Still, I don't doubt that California is having more problems than the rest of the country, what with our oppressive workers' compensation laws and high tax rates.

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