The growth, though, belies a troubling imbalance. The fastest job creation has come in low-wage sectors, in which pay has declined. At the high end of the salary scale, a different dynamic has taken hold: rising pay and improving employment after rounds of consolidation.
Most distressing, middle-wage workers are losing out on both counts.
"People talk about it like an hourglass," said Tracey Grose, vice president of the Bay Area Council Economic Institute. "There are fewer opportunities for people in the middle."
Economists generally consider mid-wage jobs to pay between $15 and $30 an hour in California — encompassing a third of workers in the state. Those at the top end of that range, which amounts to about $60,000 a year, earn more than 72% of Californians.
Middle-wage stagnation can damage consumer spending, dent career mobility, stall home buying and exacerbate a poverty rate that's already the highest in the country, economists warn. Those concerns are amplified in a state notorious for a high cost of living.
As more mid-tier jobs disappear, economists fear middle-class workers will be increasingly sucked into the ranks of the working poor. And they could crowd out those already working low-wage jobs, or drive their salaries down further.
"The long-term problem isn't unemployment; it's poverty," said Stephen Levy, director of the Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy in Palo Alto. "It's not jobs; it's wages."Click here for data on wage stagnation in the state.