Economics/Class Relations

The High Price of Life in the Golden State

By Capital and Main

Exploring income inequality in the land of milk and money.

Without question, the pandemic pounded workers in California. The state lost a greater proportion of jobs than the nation as a whole during the worst of COVID-19, and even as the economic recovery continues, California’s jobless rate has leveled off since November at a steady 5.8% — a huge jump from the 4.1% figure that was recorded for seven straight months prior to the pandemic.

But there is another throughline to this story, and it goes well beyond the simple classification of “job.” For millions of Californians, having a job does not mean security. It doesn’t even mean the ability to afford basic necessities. That long established truth is ever more evident now, and it is independent of any other crisis.

The fallout from the virus strafed certain industries and cost jobs. But many of those were fundamentally terrible positions to begin with, and often it was because they paid so little that the people working them were still living in functional poverty.

The Great Resignation? “That was people walking away from lousy jobs,” says Roxana Tynan.

Tynan has spent more than 20 years with the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, the past 10 as LAANE’s executive director. From her vantage point, the COVID crisis has pulled back the curtain on labor problems that aren’t new. “The pandemic has expanded consciousness about some of the worker issues that we’ve been seeing for a long, long time,” Tynan said. “We’re talking about stark levels of inequality.”


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