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The California Comeback

One of the states hardest hit by the recession is finally seeing its jobs return.

California has added 325,000 jobs in the past year, according to data released Friday. It’s within 85,000 jobs — 1 percent — of its pre-crisis employment peak.

That may not sound particularly impressive compared to states such as Utah, Texas and North Dakota, which have long since surpassed their pre-recession highs. North Dakota, riding an oil boom, has 25 percent more jobs today than it did before the downturn.

But the Golden State was much harder hit by the housing bust than most states. California lost 1.3 million jobs during the crisis, a decline of nearly 9 percent. Only five states (Nevada, Michigan, Arizona, Florida and Idaho) fared worse, and none of them is as close as California to making up the lost ground. California’s unemployment rate has fallen to 8.1 percent — still well above the national mark of 6.7 percent, but a dramatic improvement from the 12.4 percent it hit in 2010.

California is now helping to lead the nation’s economic recovery. The state has accounted for 16 percent of U.S. job growth over the past year, well above its 12 percent share of the population.

When it comes to job growth, though, no state can compete with Texas. The Lone Star State has added nearly as many jobs as California in the past year (310,000), despite having an adult population that’s just two-thirds as large. Texas didn’t suffer nearly as much during the recession as California, and Texas rebounded more quickly. The Lone Star State has 7 percent more jobs now than before the downturn, the strongest gain of any large state.

The table below shows each state ranked by how their employment compares with its pre-crisis peak.


Ben Casselman was a senior editor and the chief economics writer for FiveThirtyEight.