For nearly three decades, a steady decline in available labor resources had plagued California's employers. Despite eight years of business-friendly initiatives put in place by the Bush administration, many of the state's business owners continued to find themselves reeling from the disastrous policies of the Clinton era. "Those were gloomy times for us," said Barney Hamroyd, founder of temporary staffing juggernaut Adam's Apple. Fighting back tears of frustration and nostalgia, Hamroyd sighed, "There were days I feared we'd never quite recover."
And Hamroyd was not alone. Executives from all corners of the state shared his dismal outlook. Local mortgage industry leaders such as Ameriquest, Countrywide and New Century echoed similar sentiments heavy with consternation and hopelessness.
"It's all Clinton's fault," one Human Resources director vented during a shareholder's meeting in January 2009. "In the early 80s, we had our pick of candidates. Solid workers at competitive pay rates. Then Slick Willy takes office, raises the minimum wage and removes 22 million workers from the labor force. What a dick! The stain he left on this state makes Lewinsky's dress look like a Kleenex!"
The published figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) supported her claims. In 1983, the percentage of unengaged, immediately deployable workers across all industries soared into the double digits. By Clinton's second term, however, this once robust labor pool had been sapped to its lowest levels in over 30 years.
Given the current economic downturn, it might seem to casual observers that the situation has degenerated from bad to dire, completely skipping the phase of "worse." But in reality, the news keeps getting better for desperate employers.
"This year alone," beamed Hamroyd, "I've got more candidates beating down my door than I had 20 years ago. Our staffing branches are overwhelmed by applications and resumes."
Even better? UCLA's Anderson School of Business recently produced a sunnyforecast for California's job market, predicting solid, double-digit labor availability rates statewide until at least 2012. Given California's importance in the U.S. economy, even business owners residing outside the state should find this news uplifting.
The forecasting unit said that the rate of job seekers in California, the world's eighth-largest economy were it a nation (one spot behind the dark metal band Dethklok), will reach a high of 12.7 percent this quarter and average 11.7 percent this year.
Even more appealing is the fact that the majority of these newly accessible employees hail from the state's major industries, led by construction and manufacturing. As the nation struggles to recover from the recession, an infusion of uncommitted and skilled laborers in these sectors could spell hope for the wider U.S. economy.
A spokesperson for Staffing Industry Analysts (SIA) reassured attendees at a recent conference that this is an "exciting time to be an employer in California. Over the last month, more than 8,300 citizens have joined the community of available job seekers and potential workers. Many of them have engaged with temporary staffing agencies to offer greater flexibility to employers. And a substantial number of those workers have abandoned their once pricey salaries in favor of hourly work. Despite how bad they keep saying the economy is, we have more Californians who are looking for new careers, at rates more affordable and employer-friendly than a generation ago. It's just amazing."
As of October 2009, the amount of unattached, ready-to-work candidates in California was up to 12.5 percent, significantly higher than the national average of 10.2 for the month.
As the old economic adage says, "So goes California, so goes the nation." Let's hope so, for all our sakes.