It's a purgatory sometimes called the gray economy. Although the official state unemployment rate dropped to 7.4% in June, 16.2% of Californians — or about 6.2 million — were either jobless, too discouraged to seek work, working less than they'd like or in off-the-books jobs.
That's the highest rate in the country, tied with Nevada. The rate is higher, at 17.8%, in Los Angeles County, where nearly 2 million people aren't fully employed.
It's hard to track the growth of the gray economy because so many employers hide workers for tax purposes. Experts generally agree, however, that the ranks of the underemployed swelled during the recession — more than in past downturns — and have remained substantial in an unsteady recovery.
"This segment of the labor market is a barometer for the economy as a whole," said Nik Theodore, an urban planning professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago. "As employment insecurity spreads across the economy, more and more workers are being forced to turn to the street, to odd jobs, to becoming on-call workers. The question is whether this is a cyclical change, a blip or a signal of something much more fundamental."