SAN NARCISO, Calif. (Bennington Vale Evening Transcript) -- As summer approaches, California is preparing to enter its fourth year of a record-breaking and potentially devastating drought. Concerns voiced by state lawmakers and emergency management officials about the crisis led Gov. Jerry Brown to declare a state of emergency. But this week, despite lackluster conservation efforts and voluntary rationing, some of Southern California’s largest cities managed to exceed the state’s cutback goals. “California still leads the nation in unemployment,” one assemblyperson noted. “Our long-term jobless have been forced to eliminate a lot of luxuries and extraneous bills from their lives to stave off poverty. The silver lining is that their inability to keep the water on is working wonders for our attempts to lower consumption and usage levels.”
The encouraging figures aren’t just limited to the residential sector -- with more and more small businesses closing or moving out of the state, commercial water consumption is also reaching new lows.
The effects of global climate change have created parched landscapes, paltry snowfall, scant rains and increasingly arid conditions. Many in the state are worried that water reserves could run out within the next two years, citing a report by NASA. Last month, faced with dire circumstances and few options, the state board imposed restrictions to help the state realize a mandated 25-percent reduction in water usage.
The city of Long Beach, Calif., announced Monday that it used 4,280 acre-feet of water in May -- the lowest levels since 1958, when the Eisenhower Recession saw a similar worldwide economic downturn, contributing to income loss, spikes in unemployment and austere financial conditions for millions of Americans.
“There’s definitely a correlation,” a spokesperson from Gov. Brown’s office said. “During the 1958 recession, unemployment climbed to over seven percent. Because of the 2009 recession and a slow recovery, California’s current jobless rate is nearly the same. And in both cases, water usage dropped substantially. It’s obviously a difficult situation for all the families who are having their water service terminated, but their sacrifice means that their neighbors in Beverly Hills and Orange County can still water their driveways, fill their pools and wash their BMWs.”
But state officials believe there’s even more to celebrate. While California’s unemployment figure hovers near seven percent, surpassing the national average, its underemployment number is a staggering 14.7 percent -- 3.1 percent higher than the country as a whole.
“While the mind-blowing number of underemployed people, who can barely afford to pay their utility and grocery bills, is welcome news to water conservationists, it should also be embraced as an opportunity for businesses and workers,” explained Barnabas Hamroid, founder of San Narciso’s William Tell Staffing Agency.
“With all these people out of jobs or fighting for part-time shifts at CVS, California has become America’s greatest source of available labor,” he added.
Even more appealing is the fact that the majority of these accessible candidates hail from the state’s major industries. Recently, Yoyodyne's Galactronics Division contributed to the situation by freeing over 1,000 of its people. Fast food restaurants and filling stations across the county have benefited from the influx of highly qualified workers who are now willing to settle for absurdly low wages. This infusion of uncommitted and skilled laborers could spell hope for the wider U.S. economy.
“Even better, a lot of these former professionals are signing on with gig economy companies like Uber,” Hamroid observed. “In our city, that means they still get to spend time with their former employers as they shuttle these executives to and from the office. It helps maintain a sense of community and purpose.”
A spokesperson for the staffing industry reassured attendees at a recent conference that this is an exciting time to be an employer in California: “Over the last month, more than 8,300 citizens have joined the community of available job seekers and potential workers. Many of them have engaged with temporary staffing agencies to offer greater flexibility to employers. And a substantial number of those workers have abandoned their once pricey salaries in favor of hourly work. Despite how bad they keep saying the economy is, we have more Californians who are looking for new careers, at rates more affordable and employer-friendly than a generation ago. It’s just amazing.”
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