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“Swift swings” takes a quick peek at one economic trend.

The number: California is suffering from the nation’s second-biggest drop in job openings since the Federal Reserve began hiking interest rates two years ago.

The source: My trusty spreadsheet looked at job openings for the 50 states and Washington, D.C., for March – the latest available – and compared them with March 2022.

The why: The Fed began its battle against four-decades-high inflation two years ago in March, using costlier financing to cool an overheated economy. So we also looked at pre-pandemic 2018-19 as a measurement of “normal” hiring patterns.

Quick analysis 

California had the nation’s second-largest number of openings in March 2024 – 734,000, or 9% of the 8.3 million US total. Texas was No. 1 at 807,000. Florida was third at 543,000, followed by New York at 532,000 and Illinois at 385,000.

If you want to see one example of how effective the Fed has been at chilling the economy, consider how many workers bosses say they need – now versus two years ago.

California job openings have tumbled 42% since March 2022. It’s not just this state, though, as there’s been a 31% decline nationally.

On a percentage-point basis, California had the second-largest drop. The largest dip was in Kentucky, off 43%. Coming in third was Arizona, followed by Pennsylvania, and then Tennessee, off 40%.

Every state saw fewer job openings since the Fed acted. Colorado had the smallest decrease at 8%, then Kansas, off 11%, New Jersey, off 12%, Oklahoma, off 14%, and Illinois, off 16%.

Among California’s economic rivals: Texas ranked No. 21, off 26%, and Florida was No. 40, off 33%.

Bottom line 

You can’t simply blame the Fed.

Two years ago, job openings had soared because many bosses across the nation were trying to refill staffs that shrank because of pandemic business limitations.

As those staffing needs dried up, there were the employers who added too many workers in that 2021-22 hiring spree. Now, they’re readjusting their workforces to meet 2024’s cooler economic climate.

All these gyrations leave early 2024’s California job opportunities looking somewhat like the pre-pandemic days of 2018-19.

California’s March openings were 4% below the 2018-19 average, but that’s the sixth-worst performance among the states. Note that nationwide openings are up 16% in this period.

Bigger drops were found in Hawaii, off 10%, then Ohio, off 9%, North Dakota, off 8%, and North Carolina and Arizona, off 5%.

Also, 43 states have more openings than in 2018-19, led by South Carolina, up 50%, Oklahoma and New Jersey, up 41%, and Texas and Maryland, up 39%. Note: Florida was No. 18 with a 28% gain.

Jonathan Lansner is the business columnist for the Southern California News Group. He can be reached at