When we talk about "wealth" in Cannery Row, we mostly mean "debt." Surprised? Sure, they seem like they should be opposites. Either you're Scrooge McDuck splashing around in a swimming pool full of money or you've loaned out all your money and you're poor, right? But in Cannery Row, the "wealthiest" people don't have a lot of cash in the bank. That's because the most valuable currency isn't currency at all; it's other people's debts to you. In other words? Throw out all that talk of balanced budgets and deficits, and signs yourself up for a few shiny credit cards! (Oh. You mean, owing money to a multinational corporation isn't exactly the same as an informal network of obligation and favor binding a community together? Hmm.)
Money isn't the only kind of currency in Cannery Row, or even the most important. Favors, kindness, and frogs can all pay back a debt.
There's no job shortage in Cannery Row: anyone could go and start working at one of the canneries. There must be some other reason that Cannery Row residents don't have steady jobs.