Unemployment is down and economic output is up in Los Angeles County, says an economic forecast released Wednesday, but experts said more high-paying jobs are needed to replace those giving way to lower-wage service-sector positions.
The economic study released by the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp. reports that the county’s gross domestic product grew by 2.2 percent in 2016, down slightly from 3.6 percent the previous year but ahead of the national rate. The report predicted that the county’s GDP would grow by 2.7 percent over the next two years, also higher than the nation.
Unemployment, meanwhile, dipped to 5.1 percent in the county last year, reaching its lowest point since 2007. The LAEDC report estimated the unemployment figure would slowly dip further over the next two years, falling to 4.9 percent before settling at about 5 percent at the end of 2018.
“Job growth has been positive since 2011, averaging 2.0 percent since 2012,” according to the report. “This is expected to slow to 1.5 percent for the next two years as there are fewer jobs needed to be added and as the labor market tightens.”
But while the report painted a generally positive picture, LAEDC officials noted that the region needs to tackle a growing problem of too many lower-wage, service-sector jobs being created in place of skilled positions that pay higher salaries.
As part of that effort, LAEDC officials announced they have raised more than $1 million from a dozen institutions in support of a “Strategic Plan for Economic Development,” which is aimed at creating higher-paying jobs, making the area more business-friendly and preparing the workforce for skilled positions.
Among those contributing to the effort are Bank of America, various California State University campuses, Citibank, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo and the Roy & Patricia Disney Family Foundation.
According to the LAEDC, the county lost about 90,000 manufacturing jobs with an average annual wage of $52,000 since 2007. Over that same period, the county gained about the same number of positions, but they were primarily in jobs such as food service, with an average wage of about $20,000 a year.
LAEDC officials said such a trajectory is “unsustainable” for the region, prompting the push for the five-year strategic plan. According to the LAEDC, the plan’s goals include strengthening the area’s export-oriented industries to create jobs; becoming more business-friendly; removing barriers to infrastructure development; building more livable communities; and increasing “global connectedness.”