Inland Empire economy finally improving, forecast says

An arial photo of the Inland Empire in Southern California.
An arial photo of the Inland Empire in Southern California. Basil D Soufi/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

A new economic forecast says the Inland Empire is finally pulling out of its economic tailspin. Los Angeles-based Beacon Economics says a recovery is in effect and the region is rebounding — but not as fast as most other regions.

There are a number of vital signs that economists monitor to see how the patient is doing. In this case, the prognosticators like what they see.

Inland consumers are starting to spend money again. Taxable sales are up about 16 percent over the last two years. That’s in part because Inland residents are finding work again in neighboring areas with more robust economies like L.A. and Orange counties.

Brad Kemp is a researcher at Beacon Economics, he says even local job markets look good, "in the last three months it’s the first time I can say we’ve had three consecutive months of job gains in the Inland Empire.”

Those gains, he says, are mainly in warehousing, health care and transportation. The housing market is also apparently off life support. Home prices are stabilizing as banks clear more and more foreclosures off the books.

And, Kemp says, "while we can’t put the recession completely behind us — because we have to finish out processing through the recessionary effects in the housing market — the rest of the economy seems to be doing very well."

"We still have available land, we still have the same weather we had before, everything that makes us grow in the past will make us grow again.”

Even with improving numbers, the Inland region still has a host of challenges to wrestle with. They include a disproportionally large number of blue collar workers without high school diplomas or college degrees, and local governments grappling with deep budget deficits. The report says the region’s recovery is also lagging behind most other parts of the country.

The big question he says, is: "Will we go the path of least resistance that doesn’t necessarily result in the best outcome? Or will we pick the path that results in the best outcome for all our residents?"

There's no quick fix, says Kemp, it will be a long climb out of the recession - but at least the climb appears to have begun.

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