California Economy Statistics: Crucial Facts and Figures

Written By
I. Mitic
May 17,2024

If the American Dream has a home, it is surely in California.

The richest and most populous state in the union, California has an immeasurable influence on global culture and technology. 

California is the home of the US entertainment industry, world-class wines, and technological trend-setting. And a large, booming economy.

Just as locations in California have the highest and lowest elevation in the continental US, California’s economy is also characterized by contrasts and underlying disparities.This page outlines the most important features of the California economy, which has a huge influence on the financial wellbeing of the entire nation. That’s not surprising - California represents one of the largest economies in the world. In addition to mind-blowing stats and facts, we will also look at aspects such as the California unemployment rate, the state’s GDP contribution to the US economy, and its most significant industries. Enjoy!

California Economy Stats and Facts for 2024 - The Highlights:

  • California's economy is the fifth-biggest in the world. 
  • There were 18,607,800 employees in California as of June 2019.
  • Over 2/3 of US produced fruits and nuts, and 1/3 of vegetables grown in the States come from California. However, food processing and farming represent only about 2% of California’s Economy.
  • When it comes to state exports from California, top destinations are Mexico and Canada.
  • The average price for a gallon of gas in California is higher than in any other US state.

California economy size is the largest of all US states, with a gross state product of $3.02 trillion as of Q4 2018.

The fact that the Golden State is the most populous in the US contributes to its economic strength. California is the home of Silicon Valley, a global center for high technology, as well as Hollywood, which makes the state highly influential in social, political, and cultural terms.

If it were an independent country, the California economy would be the fifth-biggest in the world⁠ — ranked between the UK and Germany.

The main economic sectors that influence the California GDP are financial services, real estate, information technology, and manufacturing. 

California Economy Statistics - Pie chart

Most of California’s economic activity happens in large cities located along the coast such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Jose, and San Diego.

For example, the San Francisco Bay Area alone would rank 19th in the world against other national economies. It has a GDP of $535 billion, and its $74,815 GDP per capita is larger than London’s or Singapore’s. 

The San Francisco Bay Area is of vital importance to California economy ranking and to America’s position as an economic superpower.

As a center of international trade, the Bay Area has the highest concentration of innovation-related jobs in the States and the largest number of highest-ranked graduate programs in business, law, medicine, and engineering. More than one-third of total US venture capital funding is invested in this region; it has one of the two most highly educated workforces and the highest level of patent generation in the nation. The Bay Area’s economic productivity is almost double the national average. 

There were 18,607,800 employees in California as of June 2019.

With fewer than 900,000 unemployed citizens, the California unemployment rate is somewhere at 4.2%. More than 2.3 million jobs were created in California since 2011. 

According to a study comparing California state jobs and private-sector salaries, employees in California’s public sector earn almost twice as much.

A California Policy Center study has shown that the average pay for a full-time state/local government employee was $121,843 in 2015. The average pay for a private-sector worker was $62,475. 

According to the latest figures available, California’s median household income was $71,805 in 2017 — more than $11,000 higher than the national median.

The same survey shows that the median per capita income of the California labor force was $35,046 in 2017, which is $2,649 higher than per capita income on the national level. 

There are almost 4 million small businesses in California.

Small businesses make up 99.8% of all businesses in the state and employ about 7 million people, which is almost 50% of jobs in California.  

About $110 billion in venture capital was invested in California-based companies between 2016 and 2018.

This is five times more than in any other state. According to projections, economic growth will be strong over the next five years. In 2019, the state economy represented 14.5% of United States GDP. 

Over two-thirds of US-produced fruits and nuts, as well as a third of the vegetables grown in the States, come from California.

California economy statistics about agriculture show that more than 400 agricultural products are produced here. In 2017, agricultural exports totaled $20.56 billion. California’s Central Valley is the world’s largest patch of Class 1 soil, as well as the world’s biggest supplier of canned tomatoes. 

Despite all that, farm production and food processing represent only about 2% of California’s economy.

California water usage statistics vs share of economy: About 80% of all water resources intended for businesses and homes across the state are used for irrigating 9 million acres of California farmland. In 2015, farm production generated 38% more gross state product compared to 1980; however, farm water use decreased by 14%. 

The forest sector provides about 110,000 state of California jobs.

California is among the top five producers of wood products in the United States. According to California timber economy statistics by Calforests, this sector contributes $4.2 billion in annual salaries. 

California has almost 5,000 wineries that produce 81% of all US wine. More than 240 million cases of wine are produced each year. 

When it comes to state exports from California, top destinations are Mexico and Canada.

During 2018, Mexico and Canada imported $48.4 billion in California-produced goods. They are followed by China ($16.3 billion), Japan ($13.1 billion) and South Korea ($9.9 billion). 

California’s top exports are computer & electronic products, with $45.1B worth of goods exported in 2018.

Miscellaneous manufactured commodities took second place at $19.1 billion. Third place? Transportation equipment at $17.7 billion.

California’s two state university systems contribute more than $60 billion to the economy.

The University of California system contributes more than $46 billion per year, while California State Universities produce $17 billion a year in economic activity. 

The two largest seaports in the US, handling more than 40% of inbound containerized freight, are located in Los Angeles County.

International trade in Los Angeles County generates more than $400 billion per year. 

The movie industry contributed almost $50 billion to California’s economy in 2015 alone.

Everyone knows that California is a global center of the entertainment industry. The latest figures provided by the US Bureau of Economic Analysis and the National Endowment for the Arts show that this industry added $100 billion to the nation’s GDP in 2015. 

The entertainment sector positively affects California labor statistics too. Los Angeles County’s creative industry employs about 430,000 people and generated $38.8 billion in total labor income in 2017.

The average price for a gallon of gas in California is higher than in any other US state.

In April 2019, the average gas price in California surpassed $4 per gallon. At the time of writing, the average price was more than $3 in only six US states. 

The current median housing price in California is $547,500.

Let’s put this into perspective: The current median home price at a national level is $227,700. In San Francisco, the median home price is an astonishing $1,362,200. 

The annual per capita gross domestic product of Silicon Valley is $128,328.

According to the US Bureau of Economic Analysis, the Valley contributes $275 billion to the national GDP. That’s a higher GDP than Finland’s. The only country in the world that outpaces Silicon Valley in terms of per capita GDP is Qatar. About half of the world’s tech billionaires reside in Silicon Valley. 

California has the highest poverty rate in the United States.

Factors such as high housing costs and taxes have an enormous impact on the cost of living and therefore the poverty rate. US Census Bureau statistics show that despite its wealth, California has the nation’s highest poverty rate.

The Wrap Up – FAQ

How much of the US economy is in California?


The economy of California is the largest in the United States, It is followed by Texas (8.7% of US GDP) and New York (8.2%). 

How big is California's economy compared to the world?


California’s economy is bigger than the GDP of most nations. It has recently passed $3 trillion. Although the state’s population is significantly lower than the UK’s, its GDP is higher. 

Is California really the 5th largest economy?


California’s economy ranks fifth in the world, behind the United States, China, Japan, and Germany.

What percentage of GDP is California?


According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, in Q4 2018 California contributed a 14.5% share of US gross domestic product. 


About author

For years, the clients I worked for were banks. That gave me an insider’s view of how banks and other institutions create financial products and services. Then I entered the world of journalism. Fortunly is the result of our fantastic team’s hard work. I use the knowledge I acquired as a bank copywriter to create valuable content that will help you make the best possible financial decisions.

More from blog