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California’s Strong Job Growth Pre COVID-19 Better Positions State For Recovery

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CALIFORNIA’S STRONG JOB GROWTH PRE COVID-19 BETTER POSITIONS STATE FOR RECOVERY

March 27, 2020 — The latest employment figures released by the California EDD reiterate one piece of good news: California entered the COVID-19 crisis from a strong position. Together with federal stimulus and a return to some degree of normalcy within a couple of months, the economic hardship could be somewhat temporary, with consumption deferred to a later period, according to analysis released jointly by Beacon Economics and the UC Riverside School of Business Center for Economic Forecasting and Development. However, there could be longer-term hardship if this unprecedented draw down in consumption endures into the summer.

“We have taken a jump into unknown territory. Over the next few weeks, the number of workers laid off in California will reach unprecedented levels,” said Taner Osman, Research Manager at Beacon Economics and the UCR Center. “The hope is that stimulus measures will ease the short-term pain felt by workers, and that containment efforts will enable the economy to return to something like full capacity as the summer proceeds.  At present, we can take some comfort in the fact that the state’s economy entered this downturn from a position of unparalleled strength.”

The latest figures reveal that employment in the state grew by 29,000 jobs in February. Since February of last year, California has added 269,000 jobs, which is equivalent to a 1.6% year-over-year increase, matching the nation’s growth rate of 1.6%. The effect of COVID-19, however, does not register in the current job’s release and will not appear in the numbers in a meaningful way until data for April are available.

California’s unemployment rate held steady at 3.9% in February, maintaining its record low. The state’s labor force continues to expand, albeit slowly, growing by 6,400 February. Year-over-year growth in California’s labor force now stands at 0.7%. A lack of housing continues to be the main constraint for work force growth in the state.

Key Findings:

  • The Construction sector added more jobs in February than any other sector in the state’s economy, boosting payrolls by 7,800 positions. Since February 2019, the Construction sector grew payrolls by 2.8% over the 12-month period.
  • The Information sector also had a strong month, increasing payrolls by 6,400 in February. Other sectors posting strong gains in February were Professional, Scientific & Technical Services (5,500), Administrative Support (4,600), Health Care (3,600), and Finance & Insurance (2,700)
  • Over the twelve-month period from February 2019 to February 2020, the Transportation, Warehousing, and Utilities (4.9%), Information (4.2%), Educational Services (3.5%), Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services (2.9%), Health Care (2.8%), and Construction (2.8%) sectors posted the biggest job gains in percentage terms.
  • Within the state, job growth was led by Southern California. Los Angeles (MD) saw the biggest gains, where payrolls grew by 13,400 during the month. San Diego (4,600), the Inland Empire (4,300), and Orange County (2,600) also enjoyed job gains. Over the past year, El Centro (2.1%) saw the fastest job growth in the region, measured by percentage increase, followed by San Diego (1.9%), Los Angeles (MD) (1.7%), the Inland Empire (1.6%), Orange County (1.2%), and Ventura (0.9%).
  • In the San Francisco Bay Area, San Jose led the way, where payrolls expanded by 4,000 positions in February. San Francisco (MD) (3,200), the East Bay (200), and San Rafael (MD) (200) also saw payroll increases during the month. Over the past year, San Francisco (MD) (3.1%) experienced the fastest job growth rate in the region, followed by Napa (3.0%), San Rafael (MD) (2.1%), Santa Rosa (2.1%), and San Jose (1.7%).
  • In the Central Valley, Sacramento enjoyed the biggest monthly gains, where payrolls increased by 3,500 positions. Stockton (700), Bakersfield (600), Madera (300), and Modesto (300) added jobs as well. Over the past 12 months, Yuba (8.2%) experienced the fastest growth, followed by Madera (3.1%), Bakersfield (2.9%), Fresno (2.2%), Stockton, (2.1%), Modesto (1.9%), and Visalia (1.7%).
  • On the Central Coast, Santa Cruz added the greatest number of jobs, with payrolls growing by 1,000 over the month. Santa Barbara (900), Salinas (500), and San Luis Obispo (400) also increased payrolls during the month. From February 2019 to February 2020, San Luis Obispo (3.2%) added jobs at the fastest rate, followed by Santa Cruz (2.7%), Salinas (2.0%), and Santa Barbara (1.8%).

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Beacon Economics is an independent economic research and consulting firm based in Los Angeles. The UCR School of Business Center for Economic Forecasting and Development is the first world class university forecasting center in the Inland Empire. This analysis was authored by Christopher Thornberg, Taner Osman, and Brian Vanderplas. Learn more at www.beaconecon.com and www.ucreconomicforecast.org.

Christopher Thornberg founded Beacon Economics LLC in 2006. Under his leadership the firm has become one of the most respected research organizations in California serving public and private sector clients across the United States. In 2015, Dr. Thornberg also became Director of the UC Riverside School of Business Center for Economic Forecasting and Development and an Adjunct Professor at the School. An expert in economic and revenue forecasting, regional economics, economic policy, and labor and real estate markets, Dr. Thornberg has consulted for private industry, cities, counties, and public agencies. He became nationally known for forecasting the subprime mortgage market crash that began in 2007, and was one of the few economists on record to predict the global economic recession that followed. Dr. Thornberg holds a Ph.D in Business Economics from The Anderson School at UCLA, and a B.S. degree in Business Administration from the State University of New York at Buffalo.

Economy

An Uneven Expansion and Bounce Back for California’s Creative Economy

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New Analysis Tracks Performance of State’s ‘Creative’ Industries Before, During, and After COVID, Revealing Longer-Term Direction

The economy that houses industries such as entertainment, media, fashion, and fine arts in California has weathered the pandemic and, as a whole, done better in its recovery from the COVID-driven recession than the overall economy, according a new analysis released today by the UCR School of Business Center for Economic Forecasting and Development.

The study, Shock and Roll: California’s Creative Economy from 2015-2021, examines trends in the state’s creative industries prior to, during, and following the pandemic recession, finding that the Creative Economy has added a total of 70,064 jobs since 2015 and appears to be bouncing back to its 2019 pre-pandemic peak. Additionally, the Creative Economy workforce in California grew 8% over the study period, significantly faster than the overall workforce.

Even more impressive has been wage growth. On average, in California’s Creative Economy, per worker wages have increased a spectacular 40% since 2015. Wages among Creative Economy workers were already relatively high in 2015 at 1.8 times the average California worker wage, but by 2021, the average worker wage in the Creative Economy was 2.35 times higher. Indeed, Creative Economy wages started higher and accelerated during the pandemic, even outstripping today’s historic inflation.

“California is a global epicenter of the Creative Economy, and its industries are an engine of growth for the state and its workers,” said Dr. Patrick Adler, Research Manager at the Center for Economic Forecasting, and one of the report’s authors. “By looking at conditions and trends that were in progress before the pandemic as well as changes since, we’re able to put the COVID shock in proper context; our main finding is that the 2020 disruption did not throw the Creative Economy off its previous gains.”

The report’s topline analysis comes with a critical caveat: Many different sectors, producing widely different kinds of products, make up the Creative Economy – and the findings indicate that both longer-term performance, and the more recent recovery from the pandemic, varies considerably from sector to sector with some soaring and others declining.

The Media sector, which includes Digital Publishing, is the true stand out the sector that keyed Creative Economy growth in the 2015-2021 period. Media currently makes up 31.2% of all Creative Economy employment in the state and accounts for over half (53.3%) of all the Creative Economy wages paid. By themselves, Digital Publishing industries have added 125,885 jobs since 2015 and, counter to macro trends, added 12,216 jobs during the pandemic period alone.

The Architecture and Related Services sector is the only other major creative sector that had more jobs in 2021 than in 2015; all the others have lost employment since 2015. Unsurprisingly, Fine Arts and Performance was hit hardest by the pandemic, given health mandated restrictions on group activity, and Fashion stands out as the one sector that has been in almost steady employment decline since 2015.

California Creative Economy Employment Change by Major Subsector: 2015-2021

The analysis is part of the Center for Economic Forecasting’s ongoing research about California’s Creative Economy, its industry sectors, and workforce. Amid the angst of the pandemic and its economic effects, Adler and his fellow authors hope that providing clear diagnostics that reach back well before the COVID-19 crisis, as well as during and after, will inform long range economic and workforce development efforts within the creative industries. “There is an important, broader context that shows us certain industries were headed one way or another before the pandemic,” says Adler. “The state’s leaders ought to be thrilled with the long-term dynamism in Digital Publishing, and more concerned by declines in Entertainment and Creative Manufacturing.”

The report is accompanied by an online appendix containing a variety of graphs, figures, and maps that provide additional, drilled-down detail.

The complete analysis is available here. The appendix is available here. 

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Economy

Job Recovery in California’s Major Metros Still Lags Other Areas; Transition from Recovery to Expansion Expected by Early 2023

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Collapsing Inventories Will Keep Upward Pressure on Home Prices in State’s Notoriously Expensive Urban Housing Markets

California’s major metropolitan regions have continued to recover the jobs lost during the pandemic-driven recession although, with one exception, they are still lagging the state and nation. A new analysis released today by Beacon Economics spotlights steady job gains in five of the state’s largest metros but also illustrates the ground that these urban cores need to make up to reach pre-pandemic levels of employment.

From best performing to worst, San Diego County payrolls now stand 2.2% below their pre-recession peak, the South Bay/Silicon Valley comes in 3% below, Los Angeles 3.8%, the East Bay/Oakland 4%, and San Francisco 4.7% below peak. All of the metros except San Diego are trailing California’s statewide jobs recovery, now 2.8% below peak, and all are trailing the nation as a whole where payrolls are 1.8% lower than they were prior to the COVID-19 crisis.

“With health-mandated restrictions pretty much lifted, and with relatively high vaccination rates in the state, the major headwinds to employment growth have largely faded and we expect each of these major urban centers to reach or surpass pre-pandemic job levels by early 2023,” said Taner Osman, Research Manager at Beacon Economics and one of the report authors.

The analysis also examines the red-hot housing markets in California’s large metros, forecasting that home prices will continue rising in the near-term future even though high demand throughout the pandemic has essentially collapsed already tight housing inventories. “A lack of housing supply was a real dilemma in California long before COVID, but the changes the pandemic brought about in terms of wealth, work routines, and consumer preferences has intensified the problem,” said Osman.

According to the analysis, increasing mortgage interest rates, as well as limits on affordability, will cool price growth from the historic double-digit surges that have been occurring in the state’s major metros over the past several years, but none of the five areas studied will see price declines any time soon.

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Business

Excessive Stimulus ‘Dangerously’ Overheating the U.S. Economy; Near Term Forecast Still Strong But Long Run Instabilities Loom

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Home Price Surge Intensifying California’s Workforce Shortage

The 3rd quarter’s real U.S. GDP growth rate disappointed many observers and set off calls to continue various Federal government stimulus programs, or at least slow their reduction. However, a well-regarded economic forecast argues that there is nothing intrinsically worrisome about the 2.1% GDP growth rate (in the nine years leading up to the pandemic, the U.S. economy grew at this same pace or slower for 16 out of 36 quarters) and that over stimulus is now the real threat to the economy.

According to Beacon Economics latest outlook for the United States and California, the U.S. economy has recovered from the pandemic recession, which ‘officially’ ended in May 2020 (peak to trough), and is now becoming dangerously overheated as a result of excessive stimulus – triggering today’s hyperinflation, labor shortages, and severe supply chain disruptions.

“In a normal year, this rate would be applauded as a solid growth trend, but because job numbers and real economic output are still lower than they would have been had the pandemic not happened, we’re hitting the panic button,” said Christopher Thornberg, Founding Partner of Beacon Economics and one of the forecast authors. “Numerous metrics combine to constitute an economic recovery and so many are currently at red hot growth levels that continuing to pump stimulus into the economy in an effort to chase down raw job counts and domestic output will do more harm than good.”

According to the new analysis, job and output numbers are not the sole, and sometimes not even the most important, metrics in terms of economic recovery after a recession. The outlook points to a host of key indicators that are overheated or flourishing including consumer spending, government spending on public services, business investment, real estate markets, personal wealth and earnings… and job opportunities. While there are 4 million fewer payroll jobs in the United States today (2.6% less than pre-pandemic), there are 10 million job openings – a result of record high retirements and quitting. The nation’s unemployment rate has also fallen to 4.2%, just 0.7 percentage points higher than its pre-pandemic low, which was itself one of the lowest in U.S. history.

“The real problem in today’s jobs market is the 3-million-person decrease that has hit the U.S. labor force; it isn’t normal,” said Thornberg. “We’ve been facing a looming labor shortage for years, driven by basic demographics, but the excessive stimulus has hastened the process and we need to step off the accelerator.”

Many parts of California’s economy have also returned to pre-pandemic levels, but like the nation, the state is challenged by a diminished labor force which has led to a severe shortage of workers. According to the outlook, California’s labor force has 414,700 fewer workers than it did pre-pandemic.

“The state’s shrunken workforce has emerged as the biggest constraint on future employment expansion,” said Taner Osman, Research Manager at Beacon Economics and one of the forecast authors. “Although Governor Newsom has just reinstated a statewide indoor mask mandate, restrictions on business activity have been removed for months and are not the main driver of California’s labor market issues – worker supply is.”

There are still 5% (900,000) fewer jobs in California than there were prior to the pandemic, compared to 2.8% fewer jobs nationally. In some other states, the number of jobs has exceeded pre-pandemic levels.

The underlying issue that is most exacerbating California’s struggle to attract and retain the workforce it needs, is the price of housing. In the third quarter of 2021, California’s median home price surged to $651,383, compared to the national median of $404,700. “That kind of price disparity is bound to have a major impact on where workers choose to live, most especially lower-income workers who are impossibly strained in California’s housing environment,” said Osman. The new outlook is forecasting home prices in the state to steadily climb throughout 2022.

Overall, the near-term economic forecast in both the United States and California boils down to a strong run over the next couple of years (with labor supply being the biggest constraint), but with long-term storm clouds on the horizon. U.S. GDP is forecast to grow by 5.3% in the 4th quarter, falling to a more sustainable 3.7% in the 1st quarter of 2022.

View The Beacon Outlook here.

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