Report presents a case for cautious optimism for California economy

150 150 Matthew Grant Anson

(photo credit: Matthew Grant Anson)

California was particularly hard hit by the Great Recession, as it lost more than 1.3 million of its jobs between December 2007 and January 2010. Our state was wracked with deficit, double-digit unemployment and no hope for relief from either on the horizon. In short, California was more the Bronze State than the Golden State.

Those days, however, are over. At least according to the Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation’s (LAEDC) 2014-2015 Economic Forecast and Industry Outlook report.

“California is back on track to reclaim its status as the Golden State,” the report says. “Although the recovery continues to be very slow, the unemployment rate is falling, more people are finding jobs, the housing market is improving and for the first time in years, budget surpluses are in sight.”

Still, the state is very much a tale of two Californias where economic recovery varies widely from county to county and region to region. The LAEDC notes that the recovery is in full swing in nearly every part of the state, which is set to contribute to an overall job growth rate of 1.8 percent in 2014 for California, increasing to 2.1 percent by 2015. But while virtually every region is recovering, some are recovering much faster than others.

Orange County continues to be the apple (not to mix fruit metaphors) of California’s economic eye, leading Southern California with the lowest unemployment rate for 2013. San Diego and Los Angeles County weren’t far behind, joining the Bay Area and Silicon Valley as regions doing the heavy lifting for a state recovering faster than the nation as a whole.

It’s the Inland Empire where the recovery continues to scuffle, albeit at a slightly accelerated pace. Riverside County and San Bernardino County were badly hit by the Great Recession as it simultaneously gutted the manufacturing and construction sectors. Because of this, while the unemployment rate in the region did decline two percentage points last year, it still couldn’t get below the double-digit threshold (the IE currently clocked in at 10.2 percent at the end of last year).

But there is good news for the IE. While the LAEDC notes that the region has lagged compared to its neighbors in recovering, “momentum in the Inland Empire economy should pick up this year and next, with job gains exceeding two percent per year in 2014 and 2015,” says the report. “Nearly all private sector industries will add jobs, and even government employment should turn the corner in 2014 with slight gains this year and next.”

All of this goes to support the California Economic Summit’s regionally driven models for a robust economic recovery. The Summit Plan to Advance Prosperity in 2014 is based largely on the importance of collaborating to advance the triple bottom line, something that has to happen at a regional level. By increasing state support for regional sector partnerships, we stand to prepare our workforce for high-demand fields.

Additionally, expanding industry-led regional manufacturing partnerships by supporting manufacturing clusters is critical to for a state with regions whose shot at recovery is closely tied to the manufacturing sector.

The LAEDC report turns an optimistic eye toward the future, but it does so with the caveat that California make good on its projected budget surplus and take advantage of this time when it finally has some distance between itself and the darkest days of the Great Recession. By focusing on regional plans, the state can position itself to lock down its Golden State designation once and for all.  


Matthew Grant Anson

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