Maybe the optimists are right. The Governor has said “the worst is over” for the California economy.

But even if California has reached the nadir of our economic tumble, we’ve got a long way to go to climb back out.

The chart below tells the story (it looks worse than earlier versions since the employment numbers recently have been revised downward). Since the recession began in California in the summer of 2007, we’ve lost 1.3 million jobs – nine percent of employment. This is far worse than any other recession for the past half-century, but worse for construction (35% down), manufacturing (16% down), retail (12% down), and finance (14% down). The only sectors not seeing major job losses have been government (flat) and health care (up four percent).

California has 12 percent of the nation’s population, but has lost 15 percent of the nation’s jobs. And in California underemployment (that is, unemployment plus workers who involuntarily work part time) is north of 21 percent.

The good news is that job losses have begun to decelerate. Even construction and manufacturing rebounded a bit last month. But few expect overall employment to be restored to pre-recession levels before at least 2015. After all, the last recession provided four years of sustained job recovery, and it only added a total of 843,000 jobs – just two-thirds of the jobs lost in this recession. And since the labor force will have grown substantially in the meantime, unemployment will still be relatively high for years to come.