California was tied in February with Mississippi and Nevada for the highest state jobless rate in the country at 9.3%. At only 3.3%, North Dakota once again led the nation with the lowest state unemployment rate. Employment in California remains almost 4% below the pre-recession 2007 level, while the Great Recession barely even affected North Dakota’s employment, which is now 22% above the slight dip in 2009.
North Dakota’s budget reserves are expected to top $2 billion this year, while California is faced with $34 billion in outstanding debts.
Thanks to the fortunes of geology, California is now in a position to become a lot more like North Dakota economically. Shale oil deposits in California’s Monterey region are estimated to be 15 billion barrels, which is four times the amount of oil in North Dakota’s Bakken Shale, the shale play that has been largely responsible for the state’s economic success, budget surplus and America’s lowest jobless rate.
According to a recent study by the University of Southern California, California could create 500,000 new shovel-ready jobs and generate $4.5 billion in oil-related tax revenue if it opens up the hydrocarbon-rich Monterey shale to oil drilling.
So here’s the dillema the Golden State faces: Does the state want to tap its bonanza of energy resources in the Monterey shale area (which are owned by California citizens), and in the process create hundreds of thousands of new shovel-ready jobs, generate billions of dollars of much-needed state tax revenues, and bring the state’s jobless rate down from the highest in the country? In other words, does the state want to continue to be one of the economic basket-cases of the country with the highest jobless rate in America, or does it want to become more like North Dakota, America’s ”miracle state.”