Last updateThu, 30 Jul 2015 7pm

LOS ANGELES Saturday, August 1st 2015 4:47


Getting Serious about LA’s Sidewalk Repairs: A Five-Point ‘Let’s-Get-On-with-It’ Plan

Ken Alpern
FIXING LA-Last Tuesday night's City Council Board of Public Works and Budget Committees met and allowed a lot of good public input to a series of concerned and available Councilmembers and City officials. The attendance and input were both outstanding--I want to thank Councilmember Mike Bonin, in particular, for allowing the outreach and advice to…

Latino Politicians Putting Climate Change Ahead of Constituents

Joel Kotkin
POLITICS-Racial and economic inequality may be key issues facing America today, but the steps often pushed by progressives, including minority politicians, seem more likely to exacerbate these divisions than repair them. In a broad arc of policies affecting everything from housing to employment, the agenda being adopted serves to stunt upward…

Worlds Apart on Kathryn Steinle: When Political Opportunism Reigns Supreme

John Mirisch
MUSING WITH MIRISCH-The small Swedish Jewish Museum in Stockholm is tucked away on a side street. Discreet signage instructs would-be visitors to push a button which activates a camera, so they can be screened before they are granted entry. The museum's permanent exhibition fills one fairly small room. Most of the objects on display are Jewish…

Garcetti Passes, Wesson Fails

Jack Humphreville
LA WATCHDOG-Our Los Angeles Times has issued midterm letter grades for Controller Ron Galperin (B-) and City Attorney Mike Feuer (B+) and will be posting grades for City Council President Herb Wesson this Sunday and Mayor Eric Garcetti the following Sunday. Our City is facing many difficult issues, ranging from a lagging economy, relatively high…

What LA Really Needs: A Part-time City Council and a Part-time Mayor!

Dennis Zine
JUST THE FACTS-There are so many serious and pressing problems facing the City of Los Angeles and few if any real solutions are being proposed or implemented by our elected and appointed leaders at City Hall. I will start with the current city budget. Former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa had a $7.7 billion total budget in the 2013-2014 fiscal year.…

Why Don’t the City’s Women Managers Hire More Women?

Denyse Selesnick
MY TURN-Perusing the web is a little like the soap operas of yesteryear. You get suckered in! One link leads to another link and then one is exposed to a barrage both facts and idiocy. The reason for this discussion was my attending a July Valley Alliance of Neighborhood Councils (VANC) meeting with the Department of Water and Power. General…

Cleaning Up LA City Hall: ‘It’s What’s Legal That’s the Problem’

Bob Gelfand
GELFAND’S WORLD-Everyone understands that developers own our city government. Sure, there are some officials here and there who are upright and independent, but recent history shows that the developers typically get their way in spite of public opposition. Whether it is a zoning change for an office tower or the required permits for a new mall,…

Not So Fast LA! Let’s Consider the Real Costs of Hosting the Olympics before We Jump In

Greg Nelson
SPORTS POLITICS-On Monday, Boston withdrew from its offer to be the nation’s bidder for the 2024 Summer Olympic Games. In January, Los Angeles finished second to Boston when the U.S. Olympic Committee made its decision. After Boston was selected to polish up its bid before submitting it to the International Olympic Committee for a final decision,…

Party Crashing for Political Access: Schwarzenegger and My Pantsuit

Charlotte Laws
CALIFORNIA ACCESS POLITICS-Party crashing—or gate-crashing, as it is sometimes called—is an art form that I stumbled upon as a teen. I taught myself how to finagle into any event, anywhere, anytime. It required being part private eye, part actress and part chutzpah machine. I had to think outside of the box, throw myself into the role, and whip my…


Reynolds Rap Video: Joey has hope for the pope in Philly.

Art or Ad? LA’s mural law written in gray ink

Escape the Room-Conan goes for the record … and the laffs

LADWP Rates Overview







California Recovery: No, It Is Not East vs. West

THE ECONOMY WEST - Every now and then, some East Coast based publication sends a reporter out to California to see how the West Coast's economy is doing.  I think they write these things sitting at a restaurant patio overlooking the Pacific Ocean.  That can be seductive, and lulled into a comfortable sense that all is well with the world, the reporter always gets it wrong.

The most recent example is this New York Times article. The second paragraph summarizes the article:

Communities all along the state’s coastline have largely bounced back from the recession, some even prospering with high-tech and export businesses growing and tourism coming back. At the same time, communities from just an hour’s drive inland and stretching all the way to the Nevada and Arizona borders struggle with stubbornly high unemployment and a persistent housing crisis. And the same pattern holds the length of the state, from Oregon to the Mexican frontier.

The next paragraph contains the mandatory quote from California's favorite economic Pollyanna, Steve Levy:

“This is really a tale of two economies,” said Stephen Levy, the director of the Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy. “The coastal areas are either booming or at least doing well, and the areas that were devastated still have a long way to go. The places that existed just for housing are not going to come back anytime soon.”

The article is accompanied by a photo of a couple driving a red Ferrari convertible.  The caption says "Driving through Newport Beach in Orange County. Communities along the coast have largely rebounded from the recession."

This is all nonsense.

There are two reasonable measures of recovery, jobs and real estate values.  You can forget the real estate values measure.  Values throughout California are down from pre-recession highs.  They are down a lot.  Only San Francisco and Marin counties, with median home prices down 27.7 percent and 32.3 percent, respectively, have seen net median home price declines of less than 40 percent.  

Monterey and Madera counties top the state in median home price declines, in excess of 67 percent.
So let's use jobs.  An area has recovered if it has as many jobs today as it had at the beginning of the recession, December 2008.  

We monitor 37 California MSAs.  Combined they represent about 96 percent of California's population.  By jobs, only one of California's larger MSAs has recovered, and that county does not fit the story.  Not only is Kings County not on the ocean, it doesn't even border or have a naturally occurring year-round piece of water.  Kings County, with 37,700 jobs, has about 900 more jobs than it had at the beginning of the recession.  Still, Kings County's unemployment rate is 17 percent.  Some recovery!

Orange County, which the New York Times article cites as largely rebounded, is down 127,800 jobs from its pre-recession high.  That's an 8.5 percent decline.  Los Angeles County is down 337,000 or 8.1 percent of jobs.  The difference between unemployment rates, 8.0 percent in Orange County versus 12.1 percent in Los Angeles County, reflects different unemployment levels at the beginning of the recession and the high cost of living in Orange County.  Most people can't afford to be unemployed long in Orange County.  You either find a job, or you leave.

Here are the Counties that have lost, on net, less than 6 percent of jobs in the recession:

It's hard to find real recovery here.  Three of the sub-10-percent-unemployment-rate counties (Marin, San Luis Obispo, and Santa Barbara) are home to the wealthy, those who serve them, and a very small middle class.  They have not had and will never have anything like robust economies.  Think of them as big Leisure Villages for the terminally fashionable.

That leaves San Diego, San Francisco, San Mateo, and Santa Clara counties as potential vigorous economies.  Let's look at these regions' job creation last month.  Unfortunately, the data are only available by MSA.  San Diego County saw job growth of 1,300 jobs in February, an increase of about 0.11 percent.  Santa Clara/San Benito saw job growth of about 4,100, or 0.46 percent.  San Francisco/San Mateo/Marin saw growth of about 7,100 jobs, or 0.74 percent.

It looks to me like there is a small island of relative prosperity: San Francisco, San Mateo, and Santa Clara Counties, but even these counties have not fully recovered.  This island is indeed on the coast, but it represents just a small fraction of the coastal county population.  

The idea that there is some sort of Coastal resurgence in California is just absurd.  Certainly, the 593,800 still unemployed in Los Angeles --- by far the state’s most populous --- are not likely to agree that “The coastal areas are either booming or at least doing well..."

(Bill Watkins is a professor at California Lutheran University and runs the Center for Economic Research and Forecasting, which can be found at This article was posted first at

Tags: California, economy, West Coast, East Coast, New Port Beach

Vol 10 Issue 32
Pub: Apr 20, 2012