Inland Empire

By Kevin Smith, San Gabriel Valley Tribune
and Neil Nisperos, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin
Posted: 10/03/14, 9:10 PM PDT |

The nation’s unemployment rate dropped to 5.9  percent, its lowest level in more than six years, after U.S. employers added 248,000 jobs in September, according to the latest data from the U.S. Department of Labor.

The latest unadjusted unemployment figure for the Inland Empire region of San Bernardino and Riverside counties was 8.7  percent in August, according to John Husing, chief economist for the Inland Empire Economic Partnership. September data won’t be available until later this month, Husing said.

“What it’s telling you is the gap (between the national unemployment rate and the Inland Empire rate) has narrowed, but it’s still pretty wide,” Husing said. “We’re still running 2.4  percent higher than the national average.”

Husing said at the height of the downturn, the unemployment rate in the Inland Empire was more than 5  percent higher than the national average. The unemployment rate locally and nationally, Husing said, were virtually identical throughout 2001 to 2007, when it had ranged from 4  to 5  percent.

Husing said the new difference points to the fact that the Inland Empire economy has yet to fully recover, though he said he believes full recovery should come sometime in 2016.

“The best way you can look at it is where are we in terms of getting back the jobs lost in the Great Recession,” Husing said. “We lost 143,000 during the Great Recession. We have gotten back 110,000, but we still haven’t gotten back about 30,000. At this point, we are mending, but not healed.”

Rick Pettit, technical training and recruiting specialist for California Steel Industries, Inc. in Fontana, which employs about 1,100 people, said the national unemployment rate is a good sign.
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“I think it’s a little higher locally, but the economy is coming back slowly,” Pettit said. “It is coming back and that is a good thing.”

September’s national reading was down from 6.1  percent the previous month and 7.2  percent a year earlier. It marked the first time the jobless rate has fallen below 6  percent since July 2008, the Labor Department reported. That puts it closer to the 5.5  percent that most economists consider a healthy level for U.S.

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