Last updateMon, 25 May 2015 2pm

LOS ANGELES Wednesday, May 27th 2015 6:48


  • WHO WE ARE-Nearly half of Los Angeles just gave itself a raise. Following a wave of state and local minimum-wage bills and initiatives, Los Angeles became one of the largest cities to dramatically raise its hourly base pay and join Seattle to hit the magic $15-an-hour demand pushed by labor and community groups nationwide. The City Council…
  • ​City Snookered by Westfield Billionaires

    Jack Humphreville
    LA WATCHDOG-In March of 2014, the Herb Wesson led City Council and Mayor Eric Garcetti approved a 25 year, $48 million giveaway to help the $28.5 billion Westfield Corporation finance its $250 million development, The Village at Westfield Topanga. (Photo) But this subsidy championed by Councilman Bob Blumenfield was hardly necessary as The Village…
  • Slick With Denial: ‘Self-Regulation’ and the Latest Oil Spill

    Judith Lewis Mernit
    HISTORY LESSONS IGNORED-On Wednesday, May 20, the day after a Santa Barbara County fire inspector discovered a stream of contaminated crude oil flowing onto a pristine segment of the Southern California coast, a group of researchers published a study linking the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill to a mass die-off of bottlenose dolphins. The 46…
  • Scaremongering about the Patriot Act Sunset

    Jameel Jaffer
    FALSE CLAIMS EXPOSED-In a last-ditch effort to scare lawmakers into preserving unpopular and much-abused surveillance authorities, the Senate Republican leadership and some intelligence officials are warning that allowing Section 215 of the Patriot Act to sunset would compromise national security. (One particularly crass example from Senator…
  • Still the Land of the Free, and the Home of the Brave

    Ken Alpern
    ALPERN AT LARGE-It's been another year and another successful Flag Placement at the West Los Angeles National Cemetery. Crawling out of bed in the morning on a holiday weekend to show up bright and early for a show of American patriotism and respect to our veterans and fallen heroes, the region and nation saw yet again how the Boy Scouts, Girl…
  • Retaliation: VA Police Target Veterans

    Robert L. Rosebrock
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  • City Controller’s Grandstanding DWP Audit is the Real Waste of Ratepayer Dollars

    Dennis Zine
    JUST THE FACTS-City Controller Ron Galperin’s Grandstanding DWP Audit results were finally released. Unfortunately, the conclusion and political spin that came afterwards from the controller was misleading. Here are the FACTS: The DWP’s Joint Training Institute and Joint Safety Institute are administered by DWP managers and representatives of the…
  • A Place Where ‘Special Interest’ is NOT a Dirty Word

    Denyse Selesnick
    MY TURN-We need to have a new word to differentiate the villainous “Special Interest” that everyone is always complaining about and the “Special Interest” that almost all of politicians and civic and social activists have adopted as a cause. It is impossible to have passion about multiple issues. I know I have mentioned this before, but it seems…
  • Alert! America’s Small Businesses are Being Screwed by Big Business

    Robert Reich
    THE ECONOMY-Can it be that America’s small businesses are finally waking up to the fact they’re being screwed by big businesses? For years, small-business groups such as the National Federation of Independent Businesses have lined up behind big businesses lobbies. (Photo: small businesses in Studio City) They’ve contributed to the same Republican…


  • Can Strawberries Help Fight Cancer?

    Christian Cristiano
    WELLNESS-There have been a number of studies over the years that could show evidence of strawberries fighting off cancer. Tong Chen lead a study…
  • Study: The Best Way to Quit Smoking … Bet On It

    Francie Diep
    WELLNESS-Oftentimes, money speaks louder than words. Apparently, that aphorism applies to cigarettes too. A new study finds that money incentives…
  • Exercise Can Help Anxiety … Here’s How

    Christian Cristiano
    WELLNESS-Statistics show that over 3 million American adults suffer from anxiety and there is no evidence that number will be declining any time…

ICYMI-Amy Schumer shows Dave her vagina

Remembering Ann Meara: 1929-2015

The Star Spangled Banner … like you’ve never heard it before









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