SACRAMENTO — For years, business lobbyists complained about what they derided as "job killer" laws that drive employers out of California.
Rival state governors, notably former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, made highly publicized visits to the Golden State in hopes of poaching jobs.
But new numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics tell a different story. Total jobs created in the 12 months ending Jan. 31 show California leading other states. California gained 498,000 new jobs, almost 30% more than the Lone Star State's total of 392,900 for the same period.
Florida came in third with 274,100 new jobs, followed by New York with 157,700 and Georgia with 131,900.
"These data explain why so many governors are coming to California in search of jobs," said Stephen Levy, director of the Center for the Continuing Study of the California Economy in Palo Alto. "The state has just set records," he noted in terms of its share of venture capital funding, exports, tourism and tech growth.
Though solid expansion continued in the tech-heavy San Francisco Bay Area, the latest figures reflected an unforeseen jump in Southern California employment.
Preliminary totals for new jobs in the Los Angeles Basin were raised by 109,900 for the year ending in January. The biggest jumps were 58,200 for the Los Angeles metropolitan area and 34,800 for the Inland Empire. Tourism, international trade, development of a regional tech sector and an uptick in construction contributed to the Southern California boomlet, Levy said.
The leap in job creation shows that California is a leader in the global economy, said Kish Rajan, director of the Governor's Office of Business and Economic Development. "While other states continue to chase us," he said, "we're chasing our California-sized ambitions."
California's official economy, which generates reams of government statistics, isn't the only one that's growing rapidly.
Less publicized is the state's "underground economy" that includes a variety of state tax-evading and other illegal activities such as working off the clock, paying for jobs in cash and not buying workers' compensation insurance.
A new report from the state independent watchdog Little Hoover Commission says this underground economy is robbing government agencies of an estimated $8.5 billion to $10 billion a year in uncollected tax revenue.
Noncompliance by some California businesses creates unfair competition for honest employers, the commission said.
Among the commission's 15 major recommendations is a call for better leadership and coordination of state tax-collecting and workplace-regulatory agencies that combat the underground economy.
Alas, that was also a principal finding of a similar study by the commission in a prior report on the underground economy three decades ago.
The commission's executive director, Carole D'Elia, said the lack of progress "has been disheartening to say the least."