Explaining Southern California's economy

The grim jobs outlook for Southern California in 2012

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Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images

Unemployed father of two, Michael Lopez waits for work outside a temporary labor office in the Southern Californian town of El Centro, a town of 50,000 people where 30.4 percent of the work-age population are without employment, on October 28, 2010.

Yesterday, I blogged about the 2012 CSU Fullerton Economic Forecast and its fairly dire outlook for the national economy. Fullerton's economists also looked at the outlook for Orange County and the Southern California region. I'm going to focus on jobs, the biggest issue facing SoCal, where unemployment, at 12.1 percent, is well above the national average of 9.1 percent.

This is from the forecast:

Given the myriad of problems in the horizon both within the U.S. and globally, and prospect of little political will for forceful actions, the scenario of “muddling through” is expected not only at the national level but also at the local and regional levels. Our forecasts of payroll growth for Orange County are for a gain of only 7,300 jobs in 2011 and 16,300 jobs in 2012, or .5% and 1.2%, well below the historical average for the twenty years preceding the recession. Southern California region is expected to add only 20,000 jobs in 2011 and 95,000 jobs in 2012. As mentioned above, once the economy begins to establish an upward trend and gains momentum, jobs will be created mostly in areas of the region’s strength — construction, high-tech, business services, and leisure and hospitality. Over time we expect productivity to improve with a greater focus on exports.

Don't lose sight of those jobs numbers. The entire Southern California region will add only 95,000 jobs in all of 2012. 

Just for context, the population is 22.6 million.

Divide 95,000 by 12 and you get about 8,000 new jobs per month. The state has lost around 1.3 million jobs in the recession, so 8,000 new jobs each month will eat into that total...0.6 percent at a time. All of 2012 will knock the lost jobs total down to...1.2 million. 

The situation, frankly, is horrifying.

Now, obviously we'll probably add more than 95,000 jobs in 2013. So it won't take 13 years to replace just the lost jobs (forget about providing jobs for workers just entering the labor market). Maybe it will only take 10. Or seven. But you can see the problem. Even if the country avoids a "lost decade," Southern California may find it impossible to escape.

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