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Mid-Year Forecast Says Area Will Experience More Growth

Mid-Year Forecast Says Area Will Experience More Growth By BRAD SMITH Staff Reporter Los Angeles County, including the San Fernando Valley and surrounding regions, will see significant growth in business and employment during the second half of 2004 and next year, according to an economic forecast released last week. The Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp.’s mid-year survey found the county will see non-farm employment grow by 1 percent or 40,500 new jobs in 2004. Job growth is projected at 1.6 percent, or 65,400 new positions, in 2005. Unemployment, which averaged 6.7 percent in 2003, will drop to 6.3 percent in 2004 and 6 percent in 2000, still up from the historic low of 5.3 percent in 2000, LAEDC’s Chief Economist Jack Kyser said. “Overall, it’s getting better, especially in comparison with the early 1990s, when we saw 9.8 percent unemployment (in the county) in 1992-93,” Kyser said. “In this latest economic cycle the county did lose jobs, but not as horrifically as we did in the 1990s downturn.” Job growth countywide in 2004 will come in the leisure and hospitality sectors (17,000 new jobs), administrative services (16,500 new jobs) and retailing (8,500 new jobs.) Job losses are centered in the manufacturing (13,500 jobs lost) and government (12,500 jobs lost) sectors. Total personal income should increase by 5.7 percent in 2004 and 5.3 percent in 2005, with per capita personal income advancing by 3.9 percent to $34,415. The consumer price index across southern California, however, will increase by 3 percent because of high energy and housing costs. Taxable retail sales in the county are estimated to increase by 6.5 percent in 2004, after a 6.1 percent rise in 2003. In 2005, retail growth should slow to 5.9 percent, analysts said. Regionally, job losses have hit hardest in southeast Los Angeles County and downtown Los Angeles. The northern part of the county, including the San Fernando Valley, is among those areas that are stable or growing. In the San Fernando Valley, the analysis expects job growth in the entertainment industry due to increased content production for year-round broadcast, as opposed to the traditional cycle of production and then hiatus. Anecdotally, that appears to be confirmed by professionals in the industry and the major studios. As part of the merger of NBC and Universal, for example, the new corporate structure was specifically designed to produce new content year-round. “We have staffed the organization with that thinking in mind,” said David Frail, a spokesman for NBC Universal, which has more than 3,000 employees in the San Fernando Valley. “It does appear there are going to be changes in the ways that shows are going to be produced, but it remains to be seen how much of that shift occurs and how much it will affect employment.” LAEDC also expects major gains in the next year in travel and tourism, with the number of overnight visitors in the county increasing by 5 percent to 23.3 million in 2004. In addition, no less than six major new attractions will open at local theme parks. “That’s really unusual; traditionally, if you get a major new theme park ride every year, you think you’re doing well,” Kyser said. “The Japanese tourists are really coming back.” Growth in the aerospace industry should also be significant, both in the South Bay and in the San Fernando and Antelope valleys, Kyser said.

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