Californians seeking out of state jobs find it tough

The Sacramento BeeDecember 22, 2011 

Escape isn't easy.

As California buckled under layoffs and hiring freezes last year, tens of thousands of residents saw lower unemployment rates in other states and decided to move.

Many couldn't find jobs near their new homes either.

The unemployment rate in 2010 among former Californians who had left the state during the previous 12 months was 19 percent, according to a Bee analysis of new U.S. census data. By comparison, the unemployment rate in the state they left behind was 12 percent.

Those figures partly reflect the dismal job markets in other places. Moving from California to Nevada, which has the nation's highest unemployment rate, isn't the safest bet, but 30,000 people tried it anyway last year.

Texas looked safer. It has added roughly 150,000 jobs since the start of the recession, and 50,000 Californians moved there last year, a higher number than moved to any other state.

But 15 percent of those former Californians couldn't find jobs when they got to Texas, according to The Bee analysis.

The statewide unemployment rate in Texas is 8.1 percent – about half a percentage point better than the national average, but still high by historical standards.

The contradiction in Texas – more jobs but relatively higher unemployment – is largely due to movers, particularly from California. More than 160,000 Californians have moved to Texas since the start of the recession.

"We have produced lots of jobs but, despite that, our unemployment rate is about as high as everywhere else," said Daniel Hamermesh, professor of economics at the University of Texas at Austin. "The reason is simple: We attract migrants."

Hamermesh was blunt in his advice for Californians thinking of leaving for Texas: Don't. Texans, he said, typically earn less and enjoy fewer public services. If they do come, Californians should realize that "if they are looking for a job, so is everyone else."

Carl Friberg wishes someone had given him that advice a few months ago.

Friberg, 55, moved from Texas to California in 2003 with a friend who had family here. He got a job working for a landscaping company in Sonoma County, and did well during the housing boom.

When the housing market tanked, the company laid him off. He spent months looking for work, but found nothing. So he moved back to Texas.

"The job search here seems to be the same as in California," he said in an email Wednesday. "There are precious few jobs, mostly minimum wage, and I have applied to several.

"I would suggest that, if someone wanted to move to Texas for a job, make sure they had one in advance and … it was a signed contract."

Former California resident Jessica Prus eventually had better luck than Friberg, but only after weeks of job searching and scores of rejections.

Prus, 31, moved from Texas to California about five years ago, taking bartending and administrative work at Santa Barbara restaurants. When the recession began, her employer cut back her hours.

Prus' boyfriend, an accomplished mechanic, landed a job in Houston. Prus followed him back a few months ago.

To read the complete article, visit www.sacbee.com.

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