Job losses — a regional context for local and statewide problems

Just a quick post to pull a few issues together.

In my City Talk column today — Where did all the jobs go? — I write in some detail about the sectors of the local economy that have accounted for our year-over-year loss of 600 jobs for August. I mention the state’s year-over-year loss of 33,900 jobs.

But it’s been clear for a while now that there is a regional component to the current employment crisis, and the South is faring badly. I last wrote about that in a little detail in Looking at regional disparities in unemployment rates (or: why are things so bad in the South?)

The NYT addresses this issue with an interesting piece today: Deep Recession Sharply Altered U.S. Jobless Map. From the piece:

The once-booming South, which entered the recession with the lowest unemployment rate in the nation, is now struggling with some of the highest rates, recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show.

Several Southern states — including South Carolina, whose 11.1 percent unemployment rate is the fourth highest in the nation — have higher unemployment rates than they did a year ago. Unemployment in the South is now higher than it is in the Northeast and the Midwest, which include Rust Belt states that were struggling even before the recession. [. . .]

Now, with the concentration of the highest unemployment rates in the South and the West, some economists wonder if it is an anomaly of the uneven recovery or a harbinger of things to come.

The piece does not, regrettably address issues of governance. For several years now, I have feared that Georgia and the rest of the South will have a particularly difficult time recovering. Remember a couple of years ago when Southerners were constantly making jokes about the sorry economic condition of California? I saw it constantly in the news and on Facebook. Those jokes are gone. California’s unemployment rate is still terrible and its budget problems daunting, but it’s a state of vast wealth and incredible commercial diversity. It’s also not afraid to invest in education. Its economy may be a mess, but it’s a vibrant, optimistic mess.

But states like Georgia have basically taken two approaches to the recession and its sluggish aftermath: a) to cut critical funding for education and social services and b) to insist that we’re doing fine.

That strategy is not working.