Explaining Southern California's economy

A Labor Day story about one Southern Californian's career change


Matt DeBord/KPCC

Eric Arimoto left the Army in the the mid-1980s. He started his own business in the mid-1990s. Now in midlife, he's becoming a therapist.


Matt DeBord/KPCC

Tools of the trade.


Matt DeBord/KPCC

Eric and his partner own a warehouse in Los Angeles. And it's full!


Matt DeBord/KPCC

Eric's company specializes in intricate, high-end molded designs.


Matt DeBord/KPCC

More complex moldings.


Matt DeBord/KPCC

Eric plans to keep his business going while he trains as a therapist, after getting his Master's in clinical psychology.

The housing boom was good to Southern California — while it lasted. But when the bubble popped, our unemployment rate skyrocketed. In a state with a jobless rate near 11 percent, a number of our cities are above that. And as most everyone knows, the downturn hit the building trades hard.

What do you do when you’ve been exposed to real estate’s ups and downs for much of a career? What you hear all the time when talking to economists who follow the job market in Southern California is: If only we could take all those unemployed construction workers and turn them into healthcare workers.

But of course you can’t turn carpenters into nurses overnight. I decided to try to find someone who'd transitioned out of the building trades toward "the helping professions," however, using our Public Insight Network. While I didn’t find a guy who had been hammering houses together before the financial crisis, I did find someone who was connected to the real estate market when the bottom fell out. And who decided to explore explore a new career in healing.