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Jobs are steadily growing in the Inland Empire, but wages are lower

There’s been a shift from jobs from where you make and build things to ones where you move stuff around that’s been built overseas. Ross Franklin/AP

During the Great Recession, few areas of the country fared worse than the Inland Empire. The area’s employment rate has bounced back, but its GDP is still far below the pre-recession peak, according to a study released Thursday by the UCLA Anderson School and Claremont McKenna College.

The Inland Empire has gained some 235,000 jobs since its previous employment peak in July 2007, according to the report.

"To further show how far the area has come since being classified as one of the epicenters of the Great Recession, unemployment rate levels are roughly in line with California unemployment rates, and slightly lower than in Los Angeles County," the report says. "The bifurcated recovery is no longer evident in Southern California. We are no longer the subject of cartoons in the Los Angeles Times."

But the Inland Empire's GDP, which measures the value of goods and services produced in the region, is much lower.

"We are looking at a lost decade here and do not expect real GDP to reach the 2006 level until late in 2015 or early 2016," the report says. "To make matters worse, per capita GDP has not reached the 2001 level in the Inland Empire, the first year for which GDP data is available."

Part of the reason is there’s been a shift from jobs from where you make and build things to ones where you move stuff around that’s been built overseas, such as warehouse workers making sure you get that new pair of shoes you ordered on Amazon.

About 90,000 manufacturing and construction jobs were lost during the recession in the Inland Empire, and many of those jobs haven’t come back, according to the study. It's a bad trade for workers because the manufacturing and construction jobs paid much better than the logistics center warehouse jobs, according to Sheheryar Kaoosji, co-director of the Warehouse Worker Resource Center, an Ontario-based non-profit that advocates for workers.

“I’ve talked to workers who worked at unionized, manufacturing companies up until the recession," said Kaoosji. "Then they’re at minimum wage at a warehouse because they have no other options.”