Inland Economy Still a Driving Force for the State, UCR Report Says

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(This article was written by Jack Katzanek and published on the Press-Enterprise on January 2, 2020)

Ten months of strong economic growth has given the Inland Empire some California clout, a recent report from UC Riverside said.

Over the course of 2019 and part of 2018, the Inland region has seen better growth in key sectors — including jobs and the overall expansion of the workforce — than any other Southern California metropolitan area. The two-county region also is outpacing the state and the nation.

The area has also seen significant growth in consumer spending and in wages.

The report by UC Riverside’s School of Business Center for Economic Forecasting and Development said that, although some of job numbers are weaker than in past years, they do not suggest a slowing economy.

“Growth has not stopped or reversed, and it shouldn’t be interpreted as a sign of a downturn,” Adam Fowler, the center’s director of forecasting, wrote in the report.

Job growth for workers in San Bernardino and Riverside counties increased 2% over the 12-month period ending Oct. 31, compared with 1.1% in the Los Angeles area, 1.8 % in Orange County, 1.8% statewide and 1.4% across the country. Almost 31,000 jobs were created over that period, with 10 of the 15 largest sectors reporting gains.

The area saw an annual increase in the workforce of 0.4%, compared with decreases in Orange County (-0.3%) and Los Angeles County (-0.1%). Statewide, the number of people working and seeking work declined 0.3%.

The Inland area has typically seen slower wage growth than the rest of the state, although the difference is now a slender one. In the 12 months ending June 30, wages increased 3.8% in the Inland Empire and 4.2% statewide. The difference is likely connected to the tight labor pool, Fowler said.

San Bernardino County saw a 3.9% increase in pay, with Riverside County at 3.7%.

“There should be upward pressure on wages in the coming months as employers clamor for talent from a limited pool,” he wrote.

Larger paychecks — and more people receiving them — have resulted in sizable increases in taxable sales in the area. Taxable revenues increased 4.1% in the 12 months ending June 30, more than the state’s 3.7 percent. The increase was 5.5% in Riverside County and 2.7% in San Bernardino County.

Taxable sales increases include business spending, in which businesses expand and frequently spend money at neighboring merchants.

Those increases were very sharp in cities such as Perris, which saw a 31% jump, and Jurupa Valley, up 16.7%. The cities with the largest taxable sales increases in San Bernardino County were Ontario (5.4%) and Fontana (3.4%).

View the full UCR Report.