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  • Jason Tuvia

L.A.'s economic recovery is slow, steady

Southern California's economy will remain on a modest growth track over the next several years as it continues a slow crawl out of the Great Recession, according to a forecast scheduled to be released Wednesday morning.

Job growth will be strongest in the Inland Empire, and Los Angeles County's jobless rate will continue to decline, but "a normal unemployment rate is still years away," according to the Kyser Center for Economic Research.

"This is definitely one of the longest recoveries we've seen," center economist Kimberly Ritter-Martinez said of the region's rebound.

The state's economy hit bottom in 2010, and there has been modest job growth the past two years.

Los Angeles County experienced some job gains in the last half of 2012, which helped reduce the unemployment rate to 11.1 percent from 12.3 percent in 2011.

The rate is expected to fall to 10 percent this year and then dip to 9.7 percent in 2014, according to the center, which is based at the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp.

Job growth in the county is expected to hit 1.7 percent this year and 1.8 percent in 2014, the forecast said.

"The pace definitely seems to be locked in for this year. What's holding us back is the uncertainty of the federal government over the debt situation," said Robert Kleinhenz, the center's chief economist who wrote the county outlook.

"Regardless of what happens with the budget deficit or the fiscal cliff, the economy is still going to record growth in the private sector. Locally we expect to see some of the same sectors that did well in 2012 do well again this year."

The leisure and hospitality sector is expected to see the largest gains this year of 8,000 jobs, with lesser growth of 5,000 in health care, 4,900 in construction and 4,400 in technical services.

The entertainment and trade sectors, two of the most visible in the region, will also see improvement this year.

Motion picture and sound recording employment rose 3.7 percent last year to nearly 130,000 jobs, and if the trend continues, the sector could reach the prerecession high of 132,200 workers in 2004, the forecast said.

The value of two-way trade through the Los Angeles Customs District increased last year to a record $403.4 million and that amount should rise by 3 percent this year and 4.9 percent the next.

Job losses will continue in manufacturing and government but be smaller than in recent years.

"The Los Angeles County economy will continue to show improvement in 2013 and 2014, barring an unforeseen pullback in the national economy," Kleinhenz said.

Job growth in the San Bernardino-Riverside area is expected to increase 2 percent this year and then accelerate to 2.9 percent in 2014, Ritter-Martinez said in her forecast for the region.

The construction industry is expected to see the most growth, with employment increasing by almost 6 percent this year due to increasing demand for industrial space.

"The Inland Empire will witness improvements in almost all areas in 2013 and 2014," Ritter-Martinez said.

"Given the significant presence of the logistics industry, the regional economy is somewhat more dependent upon the U.S. and global economies compared with other Southern California counties."

The area will continue to benefit from affordable housing prices, population growth and the availability of low-cost land.

"The housing market is recovering out there as well and we are starting to see gains in the median price and they are sustainable, she said. "Sales, unfortunately, are not growing, but that was the epicenter of the housing crisis locally.

The Southland outlook is generally equal to or better than the center's forecast for the state and nation.

California should see job growth of 1.8 percent this year but it is expected to dip to 1.7 percent in 2014. Job growth at the national level should be 1.5 percent this year and 1.7 percent in 2014.

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