Explaining Southern California's economy

Visual Aid: Troubling jobs trends in Los Angeles

This is one of those charts that shows the power of great graphics. In this case, the information represented here clearly summarizes the jobs crisis in Los Angeles Country following the Great Recession.

The chart comes from the Edmund G. "Pat" Brown Institute of Public Affairs' (PBI) 2011 Los Angeles State of the City Report. The individual circles provide a sense of scale for that industry — federal, state, and local government is a lot bigger than social services — while the two axis plot job growth or decline against wages. The dotted line demarcates what the PBI considers a sustaining wage, in this case $44,000 a year.

These are scary circles. Private education and health care are the only sectors that are complete above the zero level. Pretty much the entire remainder of the economy is below the line. And as you can see, there's a whole high-income cluster on the far right, the $80-100,000 region.

Look no farther the deep-sixed construction sphere, solidly on the sustaining wage side of the dotted line, but lower than any other sector on the chart. There's the grim center of the your California jobs crisis. And note that, relative to other circles, construction is small. The job losses there since 2007 have had a disproportionate impact in the regional economy.

There is a positive in the chart: we have lots of circles in LA County! That means a diversified economy. But moving forward, we need to make some of those small spheres on the right significantly bigger. Not to mention anything above the zero line.

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