Business & Economy

Think Silicon Valley is where the most job growth is? Nope. It's the Inland Empire

Shipping orders go by on a conveyor belt at Amazon's San Bernardino Fulfillment Center October 29, 2013 in San Bernardino, California.
Shipping orders go by on a conveyor belt at Amazon's San Bernardino Fulfillment Center October 29, 2013 in San Bernardino, California.
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New tech jobs in Silicon Valley may be getting all the attention — but California's top region for job growth is actually just east of Los Angeles.

Inland Empire economist John Husing's annual economic forecast for 2018 notes that jobs in San Bernardino and Riverside counties grew by 3.5 percent over 2017. That's almost triple the growth rate in Los Angeles County, and a full percentage point higher than growth in Silicon Valley.

"They're not the job engine. We are," Husing said. 

Brian Frank/KPCC

And the Inland Empire isn't just outpacing the rest of California when it comes to job growth. A recent U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report finds that among the nation's 51 largest metropolitan areas, the Inland Empire was matched only by the Austin, Texas area for the largest over-the-year percentage increases in employment.  

The sector creating the most Inland Empire jobs in recent years is logistics. Husing says e-commerce giant Amazon already has 10 large warehouses in the Inland Empire, and is currently building more.

"When the people in L.A. go online and buy something, it is being delivered from a distribution operation and trucking operation in the Inland Empire," Husing said. 

But some of the Inland Empire's fastest growing job categories — like logistics, construction, food and retail — tend to be either blue collar or low-wage. Only one in 10 new jobs pays more than $60,000 per year, many in the healthcare sector. That lags behind the high-paying job creation happening statewide. And the region has actually been losing jobs in some high-paying sectors, like government work. 

Brian Frank/KPCC

Husing forecasts jobs will continue to grow at a slower but steady rate of 3.1 percent  in 2018. He sees a few clouds on the horizon, like President Donald Trump's tough talk on trade. Increased protectionism would hurt the Inland Empire, he said, by reducing the foreign goods coming through L.A. ports and being warehoused and transported by workers in the region. 

"It's almost like Trump put a target on the Inland Empire with the absurdity of his trade policies," Husing said.