By Steve Large

STOCKTON (CBS13) – Stockton, a city with widespread money troubles, is now leading all California cities in job growth and there’s morth growth on the horizon, according to a university report.

Sam’s Cafe is one of the Stockton businesses that has withstood some lean years lately. But if this new economic report is right, there’s a recipe for recovery in 2012.

Sam Oh-Yang is one of the survivors.

“I don’t make a lot, but I make a living,” he told CBS13 on Tuesday with a laugh. “Cannot go lower.”

Sam and his customers have watched the Central Valley’s economy sink around them.

“I have never seen Stockton this messed up in my life,” one diner said.

The unemployment rate nearly hit 20 percent in 2011, but the city is growing again. A 5 percent increase in jobs in the past year leads the state, and now a University of Pacific business forecast shows the recession here is finally over.

“We haven’t seen growth since 2006. You know, that’s six years ago,” economist Jeff Michael said. ” You always have to keep that in perspective: how long it’s been and how far we have to go.”

The report shows the housing market will stay flat, but other segments are on the rise.

There are more retail jobs, more trucking and distribution jobs, and constuction jobs are up thanks mostly to the building of a $1 billion government health care facility that will one day be the largest employer in San Joaquin County.

“When you’re a shadow of what you once were, a little bit of growth can look impressive in percentage terms,” Michael said.

It’s getting better, but no one’s celebrating in Stockton. At Sam’s Café, people are still looking for a bargain.

Ham and eggs for $4.99? Yes. “Can’t beat that,” Sam said.

It’s something new on the menu for the Central Valley: better business in 2012. That would be a chef’s surprise.

The report also shows despite improvement, Stockton’s unemployment rate will likely stay in double digits through 2016.


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