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Inland Empire Labor Market Has Now Added Back More Jobs Than It Lost Due to the Pandemic; Annual EDD Revision Shows Far More Growth Than Estimated

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Local Wages Rise… But Not Enough to Keep Up with Inflation

The Inland Empire’s labor market has now surpassed its pre-pandemic peak, having added back all the jobs it lost due to the COVID-19 crisis – and more, according to an analysis released today by the UCR School of Business Center for Economic Forecasting and Development. Additionally, in a significant adjustment, the annual benchmark revision released by the state’s Economic Development Department (EDD) shows that instead of an overall loss, the region has increased its total payroll employment since the pandemic first upended labor markets around the globe.

Since hitting bottom in April 2020, the Inland Empire’s labor market has expanded by 151,200 jobs and is now 1.4% (or 22,500 jobs) above its peak from February 2020, right before pandemic-driven public health mandates were implemented. Total employment in the region has jumped by 0.9% since February 2020 rather than declining by -2.2% as originally estimated by the EDD.

“The Inland Empire has now reached the point where we can talk about job growth as opposed to recovery,” said Taner Osman, Research Manager at the UCR Center for Forecasting and one of the report’s authors. ““California as a whole has recovered 92% of the jobs it lost and with relatively high vaccination rates and falling hospitalizations, the job expansion at both the state and regional level should continue in 2022.”

Key Findings:

  • Inflation Overpowers Wage Growth: Wages grew by 2.3% in the Inland Empire from the 3rd quarter of 2020 to the 3rd quarter of 2021 (the latest data available), a more modest growth rate than in the previous period. Local wage growth was strongest in Riverside County (3%) followed by San Bernardino County (1.7%), although these increases mark a decrease in real wages due to today’s historic inflation.
  • Red Hot Consumer Demand: Consumer spending in the Inland Empire has continued to surge, with taxable receipts expanding by 22.8% from the 3rd quarter of 2020 to the 3rd quarter of 2021 (the latest data available). This trend mirrors consumer activity across the nation and is being driven in part by the unprecedented stimulus the Federal government threw into the economy at the onset of the pandemic.
  • Fuel Spending Soars: Taxable receipts at Fuel and Service Stations in the Inland Empire increased by 56.9% over the last year, and as gas prices have hit record levels in the first part of 2022, spending in this category is almost certain to continue spiraling upwards over the near-term future.
  • Historic Housing Market: Against a backdrop of historically low inventory, asking home prices in the Inland Empire ballooned by 18.3% from the 4th quarter of 2020 to the 4th quarter of 2021 (the latest data available) and ended the period with a median single-family home price of $517,000. Despite the increase, relative to the rest of Southern California, the region continues to be a haven of affordability: Median home prices in Los Angeles, Orange County, and San Diego currently stand at $860,000, $1.07 million, and $832,000, respectively.
  • Apartment Mania: Demand for apartments has also surged in the Inland Empire over the last year with asking rents expanding by 17.4% to reach an average of $1,729 per month per unit. But, again, even with the increase, rent in the region is significantly more affordable then in Los Angeles ($2,136), Orange ($2,327), and San Diego ($2,155) Counties.
  • Warehouse Space Heats Up… More: In the last edition of this report, the vacancy rate among warehouse properties in the Inland Empire was a low 5%. As of the 4th quarter of 2021 (the latest data available), the vacancy rate had fallen to 3.6% and this is despite 4.4 million square feet of new space coming online. Elevated consumer spending in E-Commerce is the primary driver of high warehouse demand.

The new Inland Empire Regional Intelligence Report was authored by Osman and Senior Research Associate Brian Vanderplas. The analysis examines how the Inland Empire’s labor market, real estate markets, and other areas of the economy are recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic and their outlook for the remainder of the year.

View the full analysis here.

The Inland Empire Business Journal (IEBJ) is the official business news publication of Southern California’s Inland Empire region - covering San Bernardino & Riverside Counties.

Career & Workplace

Worker Supply Remains Primary Obstacle to California Job Growth

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April Job Gains Revised Upwards In Latest Numbers

California’s labor market continued to expand at a steady pace in May (the latest data), with total nonfarm employment in the state growing by 42,900 positions over the month, according to an analysis released jointly by Beacon Economics and the UCR School of Business Center for Economic Forecasting and Development. April’s gains were also revised up to 44,600 in the latest numbers, a 3,200 increase from the preliminary estimate of 41,400.

While California has added jobs at a healthy pace in 2021 and 2022, as of May 2022, the state has recovered just 93% of the jobs that were lost in March and April 2020, and there are still 193,800 fewer people employed in California compared to February 2020. Total nonfarm employment in the state contracted 1.1% over this time compared to a 0.5% drop nationally. However, with a larger portion of its workforce to be recovered, California increased payrolls by 5.2% from May 2021 to May 2022, outpacing the 4.5% increase nationally over the same period.

California’s unemployment rate fell to 4.3% in May, a 0.3 percentage-point decline from the previous month, which was driven by an increase in household employment (+121,000). California’s unemployment rate remains elevated relative to the 3.6% rate in the United States overall. While growing by 75,000 in May, the state continues to struggle with its labor supply. Since February 2020, the California labor force has fallen by 232,100 workers, a 1.2% decline.

“The low unemployment rate in the state shows that worker supply remains the primary obstacle to job growth in California,” said Taner Osman, Research Manager at Beacon Economics and the Center for Economic Forecasting. “Moreover, a clear dichotomy has emerged, whereby labor markets in the state’s central communities have outperformed the coastal communities; the coast is routed in high cost and housing supply constraints and continues to experience labor market shortages.”

Industry Profile  

  • While a handful of sectors in California are now exceeding their pre-pandemic peaks, employment levels in the hardest hit sectors remain below their pre-pandemic levels and should continue to steadily gain back jobs over the coming months.
  • Leisure and Hospitality led payrolls gains in May, with payrolls expanding by 8,800. However, this industry still has a long way to go to recover all of the jobs lost due to the pandemic, with payrolls still down 8.4% since February 2020.
  • Other sectors posting strong gains during the month were Information (8,800), Construction (7,100), Health Care (6,600), Government (4,600), Manufacturing (3,700), Other Services (3,600), and Transportation, Warehousing, and Utilities (3,600).
  • Job gains were broad based in May with Retail Trade (-9,900) being the only sector to post significant losses during the month. Finance and Insurance (-500) and Mining and Logging (-300) also shed positions during the month, but the losses were minor.

Regional Profile

  • Regionally, job gains were led by Southern California. San Diego saw the largest increase, where payrolls grew by 6,700 (0.4%) during the month. Orange County (6,500 or 0.4%), Los Angeles (MD) (5,200 or 0.1%), the Inland Empire (2,600 or 0.2%), and Ventura (2,100 or 0.7%) also saw their payrolls jump during the month. The Inland Empire (123.4%) has experienced the strongest recovery in the region, measured by the percentage of jobs recovered from April 2020 to May 2022 relative to the jobs lost from February 2020 to April 2020. The IE is followed by El Centro (110.2%), San Diego (97.1%), Orange County (86.5%), Los Angeles (MD) (83.9%), and Ventura (79.8%).
  • In the Bay Area, San Francisco (MD) experienced the largest increase, with payrolls expanding by 2,700 (0.2%) positions in May. The East Bay (1,900 or 0.2%), San Jose (1,700 or 0.1%), and San Rafael (MD) (600 or 0.6%) also saw payrolls expand during the month. Since April 2020, San Jose (86.2%) has experienced the strongest recovery in the region, followed by the East Bay (83.8%), San Francisco (MD) (78.4%), Santa Rosa (76.5%), Napa (75.6%), Vallejo (67.4%), and San Rafael (MD) (62.6%).
  • In the Central Valley, Sacramento experienced the largest monthly increase as payrolls expanded by 3,200 (0.3%) positions in May. Payrolls in Visalia (500 or 0.4%), Fresno (400 or 0.1%), Merced (300 or 0.4%), and Yuba (200 or 0.4%) increased steadily as well. Since April 2020, Visalia (127.9%) has experienced the strongest recovery in the region, followed by Stockton (124%), Yuba (124%), Madera (112%), Merced (111.9%), Sacramento (110.8%), Redding (105.1%), and Fresno (104.5%).
  • On California’s Central Coast, San Luis Obispo added the largest number of jobs, with payrolls increasing by 1,100 (0.9%) during the month. Salinas (900 or 0.6%) and Santa Barbara (700 or 0.4%) also saw payrolls expand. Since April 2020, and San Luis Obispo (92.7%) has experienced the strongest recovery in the region, followed by Santa Barbara (89%), Salinas (82.2%), and Santa Cruz (80.5%).
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Career & Workplace

California Workforce Expands in Latest Numbers but Labor Supply will Continue Constraining Job Growth

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March Job Gains Revised Upwards In Latest Numbers

California’s labor market continued to expand at a steady pace in April, with total nonfarm employment in the state growing by 41,400 positions over the month, according to an analysis released jointly by Beacon Economics and the UCR School of Business Center for Economic Forecasting and Development. March’s gains were also revised up to 74,400 in the latest numbers, a 14,200 increase from the preliminary estimate of 60,200.

While California added jobs at a healthy pace throughout 2021 and has done the same so far in 2022, as of April, the state has recovered just 91.3% of the jobs that were lost in March and April of 2020, the onset of the pandemic. There are now 239,900 fewer people employed in California compared to February 2020. Total nonfarm employment in the state has contracted 1.4% since that time compared to a 0.8% drop nationally. With a larger portion of its workforce still to be recovered, California increased payrolls by 5.6% from April 2021 to April 2022, well above the 4.6% increase nationally over the same period.

California’s unemployment rate fell to 4.6% in April, a 0.2 percentage-point decline from the previous month. The decline was driven by an increase in household employment (+150,000). Still, the state’s unemployment rate remains elevated relative to the 3.6% rate in the nation overall. While growing by 111,800 in April, California is continuing to struggle with its labor supply. Since February 2020, the state’s labor force has decreased by 299,600 workers, a 1.5% decline.

“Labor supply remains the biggest constraint to job growth in the state,” said Taner Osman, Research Manager at Beacon Economics and the Center for Economic Forecasting. “And as employers seek to ramp up employment during the seasonally strong summer months, worker scarcity will continue to place upward pressure on wages in the state.”

Industry Profile  

  • At the industry level, the largest jobs gains continue to occur in the sectors hardest hit by the pandemic. While a handful of sectors in California are now exceeding their pre-pandemic peaks, employment levels in the hardest hit sectors remain below their pre-pandemic levels and should continue to steadily gain back jobs over the coming months.
  • Leisure and Hospitality led payrolls gains in April, expanding by 20,100. Payrolls in Leisure and Hospitality still have a long way to go to recover all of the jobs lost due to the pandemic however, with payrolls still down 8.7% compared to February 2020.
  • Other sectors posting strong gains during the month were Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services (7,300), Government (4,600), Retail Trade (4,500), Transportation, Warehousing, and Utilities (4,200), Administrative Support (3,100), Manufacturing (2,600), and Information (1,800).
  • While job gains were broad-based in April, the Construction (-13,200) sector posted significant losses during the month. Health Care (-500), Other Services (-100), and Mining and Logging (-100) also shed positions, but the losses were minor.

Regional Profile

  • Regionally, job gains were led by Southern California. Los Angeles (MD) saw the largest increase, where payrolls grew by 9,600 (0.2%) during the month. The Inland Empire (8,000 or 0.5%), San Diego (4,500 or 0.3%), and Orange County (4,300 or 0.3%) also saw their payrolls jump during the month. The Inland Empire (122.6%) has experienced the strongest recovery in the region, measured by the percentage of jobs recovered from April 2020 to April 2022 relative to the jobs lost from February 2020 to April 2020. The IE is followed by El Centro (108.5%), San Diego (94.4%), Orange County (83.9%), Los Angeles (MD) (83.5%), and Ventura (75.0%).
  • In the Bay Area, San Francisco (MD) experienced the largest increase, with payrolls expanding by 4,900 (0.4%) positions in April. San Jose (4,300 or 0.4%), the East Bay (2,100 or 0.2%), Santa Rosa (500 or 0.2%), and Vallejo (300 or 0.2%) also saw payrolls expand during the month. Since April 2020, San Jose (85.8%) has experienced the strongest recovery in the region, followed by the East Bay (82.3%), Santa Rosa (77.3%), San Francisco (MD) (77.1%), Napa (76.7%), Vallejo (68.3%), and San Rafael (MD) (58.7%).
  • In the Central Valley, Sacramento experienced the largest monthly increase as payrolls expanded by 4,700 (0.4%) positions in April. Payrolls in Bakersfield (1,400 or 0.5%), Fresno (1,000 or 0.3%), Visalia (600 or 0.4%), Modesto (400 or 0.2%), Chico (300 or 0.4%), and Redding (200 or 0.3%) increased steadily as well. Since April 2020, Visalia (126.4%) has experienced the strongest recovery in the region, followed by Stockton (124.3%), Yuba (122%), Madera (116%), Sacramento (109.6%), Redding (108.9%), Merced (105.1%), and Fresno (104.0%).
  • On California’s Central Coast, Santa Barbara added the largest number of jobs, with payrolls increasing by 100 (0.1%) during the month. San Luis Obispo (-1,400 or 1.2%), Santa Cruz (300 or 0.3%), and Salinas (300 or 0.2%) saw payrolls decline. Since April 2020, San Luis Obispo (89.3%) has experienced the strongest recovery in the region, followed by Santa Barbara (86.9%), Santa Cruz (81.9%), and Salinas (78.7%).
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Career & Workplace

City of San Bernardino Names Nathan Freeman as Director of Community and Economic Development

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The City of San Bernardino Announces Nathan Freeman as its new Director of Community and Economic Development. His starting date is May 16.

An experienced professional with almost 25 years working in economic development in the Inland Empire, Freeman comes to San Bernardino after spending the past sixteen years with the City of Riverside, where he served as the Economic Development, Redevelopment, and Real Property Services Manager.

“Nathan Freeman has extensive experience successfully negotiating major development agreements while at the same time creating opportunities for small businesses and startups,” said City Manager Robert Field. “He has played a critical role in the recent and upcoming development in downtown Riverside and is a great addition to the San Bernardino team.”

In the role of Director of Community and Economic Development, Freeman will oversee the functions, programs, and activities of the Planning Division, Building Division, Code Enforcement, Economic Development, and Housing.

“I am looking forward to the opportunity to work alongside an amazing team in San Bernardino, under the leadership of the City Council and City Manager, who are dedicated to building a stronger and more economically resilient community,” said Freeman. “I’m truly excited about the City’s long-term potential and am grateful for the opportunity to lead the Community & Economic Development Department as we encourage job creation, business development, and a better quality of life for all residents.”

In Riverside, Freeman played a key role in major development projects, including the revitalization of downtown. He negotiated approximately $1 billion in private investment throughout Riverside, including the development of over 250,000 square feet of Class A office/commercial space, worked to attract many new businesses to the city, and facilitated the development of the Riverside Food Lab, the Inland Empire’s first urban food court.

Previously, Freeman served as Business Development Officer for the City of Hesperia and Economic Development Project Manager for the County of Riverside.

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