The second annual North San Joaquin Index reported decent job growth in 2015 but continued lags in income, education and other measures for many residents.
The report, released Thursday in Tracy, showed that Stanislaus, Merced and San Joaquin counties continued their slow recovery from the downturn that started in 2008. Nonetheless, household income remains below the pre-recession level and well below what Californians as a whole make.
“The good news is we’ve gone up,” economist and co-author Jeff Michael said. “They’ve just gone up faster.”
He is director of the Center for Business and Policy Research at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, which compiled the index with support from J.P. Morgan Chase and Co.
The report said fewer northern San Joaquin Valley residents than the state average hold a bachelor’s degree or higher, and a good number did not finish high school. On the upside, they have an especially high rate of health coverage, thanks to the federal Affordable Care Act.
The region also is seeing steady growth in home values, but nowhere near the bubble that burst nearly a decade ago, contributing to a national financial crisis.
The northern Valley’s annual jobless rate rose as high as 17 percent during the downturn but was down to 10 percent as of last year.
“We have a growing population, but we also have people getting confident and getting back in the labor force,” Michael said.
The statewide jobless rate was around 6 percent last year, thanks in part to the booming Bay Area. That has resulted in another run-up of housing prices in Silicon Valley and other parts of that region – and more workers commuting from homes in the northern Valley.
The index was released at the Nirvaana Banquet and Event Center, right next to Interstate 205. It was a fitting site, since that freeway carries many of the 65,000 so Bay Area commuters each weekday. It’s about a 90-minute drive without congestion, but usually takes much longer.
“That’s not good for the environment,” said Jeff Bellisario, a research manager for the Bay Area Council Economic Institute. “That’s not good for the economy. That’s not good for families.”
Speakers talked about improving rail services, including the Altamont Corridor Express and the Amtrak San Joaquin trains, and connecting them with other Bay Area lines. They also discussed how to get commuters to work where they live, including remotely by computer.
“That will increase our overall wages,” said Michael Ammann, executive director of the San Joaquin Partnership, based in Stockton. “It will give us a lot more opportunities for retail, etc.”
Speakers urged a continued effort to revive Valley downtowns, with town houses and apartments rather than the suburban single-family homes of the past 50-plus years.
Agriculture remains the primary driver despite a drop in gross farm income last year because of reduced commodity prices and drought, Michael said.
Homebuilding all but disappeared during the downturn, taking jobs in construction, banking and related fields with it. The 2015 index showed it at about a fifth of its 2005 level.
John Holland: 209-578-2385
BY THE NUMBERS
(2015 figures for San Joaquin, Stanislaus and Merced counties)
3: Percentage growth in jobs, down from 4.7 percent in 2014 but still the fifth straight year of gains
$52,500: Approximate median household income in Stanislaus County, up from $51,000 in 2014 but still below the $58,000 in pre-recession 2007
$42,500: Income in Merced County, down from $44,000 in 2014 and $51,000 in 2007
$54,000: Income in San Joaquin County, up from $52,000 in 2014 but down from $60,000 in 2007
4.2: Percentage growth in North Valley economic output, well ahead of the national rate
$10.2 billion: Gross income to farmers, down from $12.1 million in 2014 because of lower prices and drought
23.9: Percentage of residents 25 or older who did not finish high school
26.9: Percentage who finished high school
32: Percentage with some college short of bachelor’s degree
17.2: Percentage with bachelor’s or higher
93: Percentage of people with health coverage, up from 81 percent in 2013 because of the federal Affordable Care Act
65: Percentage gain in median home value since 2011, when the real estate market hit bottom
Source: North San Joaquin Valley Index