California has 4th best state economy, by two measurements

by in News

Some of my readers think I’m a tad too upbeat about California. For example, some thought a recent column I did on California’s economic outperformance was, politely put, misguided.

Well, what’s a journalist to do when the state’s economy ranks highly on numerous scorecards? The personal finance website WalletHub just released its own math about state-vs.-state economic muscle. And surprise! California ranked No. 4. That study followed U.S. News & World Report’s scorecard on state economies ranking California No. 4, too.

WalletHub’s top three were Washington, Utah and Massachusetts while U.S. News had Colorado, Utah and Washington rated highest. (My recent rankings, based on job creation and wage growth, also had California No. 4 behind Washington, Utah and North Dakota.)

There were some similarities, too, at the bottom of these rankings. WalletHub graded Alaska worst, then Louisiana and Mississippi. U.S. News? West Virginia last, then Louisiana and Mississippi. (Me? Alaska, Wyoming and Connecticut.)

So how did California score so well? Let’s look inside the grades.

WalletHub gave California a pair of No. 3 rankings for economic activity and innovation potential but a disappointing No. 35 for economic health that weighed unemployment, part-time workers, state debt levels, income and poverty. At U.S. News, California was top-rated for its business environment, No. 14 for growth and No. 26 for employment.

These lofty rankings reflect a remarkable California economic rebound that’s uplifted the lives of many Californians. Yes, sadly, this monetary overachievement has not been a broad enough monetary salve for enough residents. I know the Golden State can do better.

That poor No. 35 grade on WalletHub’s “economic health” benchmark and the middling No. 26 from U.S. News on jobs should be a wake-up call for folks debating how the state handles everything from regulation to government spending to taxation to its housing challenges.

Then there’s Chief Executive magazine’s annual poll of bosses. It ranks California dead last for business friendliness every year. Yes, it’s corporate sour grapes, but we were No. 50 again for 2019!

However, California’s oft-noted shortfalls — and find me a place on the planet without room for improvement — doesn’t mean positive trends should be ignored. Folks making decisions about the state’s future — from individual voters to big-shot policymakers — need to know what’s right and what’s wrong to make informed decisions.

Progress is being made on many economic fronts in California. By numerous measures, better than most states. And all that success isn’t just a byproduct of managerial wizardry or the result of political will.

Let’s remember all the worker bees toiling statewide — industrious Californians who helped their often overpaid bosses achieve outperformance. Please, take a moment for self-congratulations. Then, quickly get back to work.