Four of the 10 cities whose employment rolls are suffering the most amid a national wave of metropolitan austerity are in California, according to a list compiled by 24/7 Wall St. The Golden State cities are San Francisco, Bakersfield-Delano, Fresno and Stockton.
"It's very, very difficult if you are not growing and you have to deal with a budget gap," says Nigel Gault, chief U.S. economist at HIS Global Insight, in an interview with 24/7. "The options are not pleasant."
The experiences of fiscal emergencies, massive layoffs and fired teachers are indicative of a national trend; among the most telling statistics included in the 24/7 report is that 63 percent of U.S. cities surveyed by the National League of Cities made plans to introduce cuts in public safety spending in 2010. That figure is part of the nationwide metropolitan downturn that could very well define this Great Recession, once its final history is written.
And we are far from being out of the woods. A study conducted by Wells Fargo says the current national monthly pace of cities shedding 20,000 to 30,000 jobs should be expected to hold through 2012. San Francisco, ranked tenth on the 24/7 list, doesn't expect to return to 2008 employment levels until 2015.
Indeed, the stories of the 10 cities suffering the most offer an avalanche of misery. The metropolitan government of Providence, R.I., listed sixth on the 24/7 list, was forced to furnish preliminary layoff notices for all its 1,926 teachers. (Not all ended up losing their jobs.) New Orleans, which tops the list, asked its workers to take 11 days off last year, with no pay, to help close a budget shortfall.
Desperate times have called for desperate measures; the greater metropolitan area of Augusta, Ga., ranked ninth by 24/7, has privatized its bus service, while greater New Haven, ranked fourth, has mulled selling off its parking meters.
To capture the moment, 24/7 cited a 2008 NPR report on Fresno, in which the following was noted: "For some people in California's central valley, life resembles scenes from 'The Grapes of Wrath.' " John Steinbeck's classic took place during the Great Depression.
Starting with the city suffering most, here's 24/7's Top 10 list:
- New Orleans-Metairie-Kenner, LA
- Detroit-Warren-Livonia, MI
- Stockton, CA
- New Haven-Milford, CT
- Fresno, CA
- Providence-New Bedford-Fall River, RI-MA
- Bakersfield-Delano, CA
- Kansas City, MO-KS
- Augusta-Richmond County, GA-SC
- San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, CA
Methodology: "24/7 Wall St. used data from the Bureau of Labor for statistics for estimated government employment and regional unemployment. The employment change figures are from Brookings and the credit ratings are from Moody's. We also consulted the Milken Institute's 2010 Best-Performing Cities – 200 Largest Metros list."