Only four counties out of California’s 58 have fully recovered from the Great Recession, in the sixth year after the official economic recovery began.
The four counties that have have economically recovered are in Bay Area, the base of the Internet industry.
California’s experience has been repeated across the nation since the economy was driven into deep economic contraction in 2008.
Nationally, only 214 of the 3,069 counties have fully recovered to their 2007 pre-recession levels in the four major sectors of economic activity–total employment, unemployment rate, size of the economy and home values–according to a new report from the National Association of Counties (NAC).
Breitbart News reported in November that the USC Dornsife/L.A. Times Poll found a sharp divide separates the economic optimism of the San Francisco Bay Area from the anxiety throughout the rest of the stressed state. USC researchers found that 76 percent of California voters report being “financially dissatisfied” and 57 percent say they are “barely maintaining their standard of living.”
The four counties that have done best in California–Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo, and Santa Clara–have residents who are optimistic about their future, said the USC poll. But within those few California counties, 44 percent of residents are still somewhat or very anxious about their economic future.
USC Director Dan Schnur of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics, who led the polling effort, commented at the time, “This is a tale of two Californias.”
It has been a long, tough slog for most Americans trying to recover from the Great Recession. Only 28 percent of U.S. counties had regained their pre-recession job levels, and only 55 percent regained their pre-recession economic output by the end of 2015.
NAC’s data base showed modest improvement from 2014 to 2015 in the percentage of counties that recovered in each of the four sectors:
- Jobs: The percentage of counties that recovered jobs to pre-recession levels in 2015 actually fell from 5 percent in 2014 to 3.5 percent in 2015.
- Unemployment Rate: About 15 percent of American counties finally recovered their pre-recession employment levels in 2015. That was a big improvement from 2014, when only 6 percent recovered employment.
- Economic Output: About 7.1 percent of counties finally exceeded their pre-recession economic output levels in 2015, up from a 4.9 percent in gain 2014. But 3 percent of counties, mostly energy-based, fell back below their pre-recession in 2015.
- Home Prices: About 14.6 of counties saw their median home price exceed pre-recession levels in 2015, up from a 5.8 percent gain in 2014.
NAC’s economist, EcoEmilia Istrate, commented that Americans don’t live in a highly integrated national economy anymore. More than half of the nation, 27 states, have not seen a full recovery from the recession. She added: “It tells you why many Americans don’t feel the good economic numbers they see on TV.”
It appeared that the recovery was spreading out from the energy-rich center of the nation–until the economic turmoil in early 2016.
The main driver of the improving national recovery has been a 22 percent crash in the price of gasoline from $3.34 a gallon, down to an average of about $2.40 a gallon in 2015. That added up to a $540 per-driver tax-cut. With the current national price just hit a seven-year low of $2.01 a gallon, this year’s savings could be boosted to an average of about $750 per driver.
But this national average assumes the driver lives outside California. In the not-so “Golden State,” the tax-boosted price of a gallon of unleaded gasoline averages $2.81, according to the Gas Buddy blog.