The San Gabriel Valley’s employment base grew by 2 percent in 2017, powered primarily by growth in public administration, health services and leisure and hospitality sectors.
That was highlighted Thursday at the 2018 San Gabriel Valley Economic Forecast Summit. Held at the DoubleTree by Hilton hotel in Monrovia, the event drew business leaders, elected officials and others from throughout the region. It was presented by the San Gabriel Valley Economic Partnership.
“Our economic growth is continuing, but at a modest pace,” said Somjita Mitra, director of the Institute for Applied Economics at the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp.
Mitra said the region is subject to challenges based on geopolitical risks, such as the future of the nation’s trade policy, political gridlock in both Sacramento and Washington, policy uncertainty as well as rising energy prices and a perpetual housing shortage in Southern California.
Still, a report prepared by the L.A. Economic Development Corp. shows that 10 out of 14 major industry sectors in the San Gabriel Valley added jobs in 2017. Total employment is at an all-time high of more than 691,000 jobs, she said, and the region is expected to continue to add jobs through 2019. The current unemployment rate for the San Gabriel Valley is 4.2 percent, compared to 4.6 percent for Los Angeles County.
Public administration posted the biggest year-over-year gains last year with the addition of more than 3,500 new jobs. That was followed by health services (2,700 jobs added) and leisure and hospitality (more than 2,500 jobs added). Total employment in the valley is expected to reach 698,676 this year, an increase of 1.1 percent. Additional growth of 0.8 percent next year is expected to boost total wage and salary employment to more than 704,000.
Bill Scroggins, president of Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, and Sean Arian, vice president of innovation and emerging technologies for the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, offered a perspective on the future of work.
“Our message today is that this will be a partnership between business and industry,” Scroggins said. “There are challenges, but education can’t solve them alone and business can’t solve them alone. Education needs to change to be a better partner with business, and business needs to change to partner with education.”
Scroggins noted that middle-skill jobs account for about half of California’s labor market, but only 39 percent of workers are trained to middle-skill levels. A shift has occurred in the workplace, he said, and some of today’s jobs don’t necessarily require a college degree. But they do require specific skill sets to work in such areas as automation, artificial intelligence, mobile devices, big data and the gig economy.
That will likely include such rote jobs as a machinist, payroll clerk or data entry worker.
Arian said high-wage jobs and very low-wage service jobs are growing in Southern California, while jobs that have traditionally gone to middle class workers and others who have managed to climb the ladder into the middle class have either stagnated or are shrinking.
The challenge, he said, has been to create career pathways into Southern California’s technology industries, which continue to expand throughout the region: “One of the ways we have focused on that is through a partnership with community colleges.”
Scroggins said his school is looking to better align its programs for the jobs that today’s industries need.
“My job is to train, but I need to know what are the competencies that businesses need,” he said. “One of the things we’re working on is this area of work-based learning.”
Arian said there has been a stigma attached to community college students, as businesses have generally been reluctant to hire them. But that’s changing.
“We have worked with companies like Google and Snapchat to do classroom visits and field trips where students come to their workplace,” he said. “We’ve done Hackathons, job shadowing … and all of a sudden, it’s amazing. Businesses will say, ‘Wait a minute, these students are actually really talented, and we want to bring them on as interns.’”