November 17, 2003 Vol. VIII, No. 7



Mild Upswing in Valley Job Rate Seen by Researchers

Northridge's Economic Research Center 'Report of Findings' Optimistic on Valley Trends

Despite ongoing job losses in the rest of Los Angeles County and the state of California, the San Fernando Valley experienced growth in 2002, according to a new study by Cal State Northridge researchers.

The Valley's private sector added 2,000 jobs in 2002 after losing nearly 4,900 in the recession the year before. The region's mild 0.3 percent job growth contrasted with private sector job losses of 1.6 percent in Los Angeles County and 1 percent in the state, the report said.

"Relatively speaking, the Valley is in good shape," said Daniel Blake, director of Northridge's San Fernando Valley Economic Research Center. "Jobs in the Valley are growing slowly, and unemployment is slowly dropping. And though the large entertainment and manufacturing industries lost some jobs, they were more than made up for by job growth in other areas."

Located in the College of Business and Economics, the center detailed the state of the region's economy in its yearly "Report of Findings," released at the Valley Industry and Commerce Association's 15th annual Business Forecast Conference.

Blake noted that the information industry, including entertainment, remains the Valley's top employer, with 92,500 jobs and 22 percent of the private sector payroll. Manufacturing is second with 82,900 jobs and 13 percent of the payroll.

While both industries lost jobs in 2002—information shed 6 percent and manufacturing dropped by nearly 10 percent—job growth in the Valley's other industries made up for the loss. Among the growth industries were health care and social assistance, about 10 percent; finance, insurance, real estate and leasing/rental, 4.6 percent; retail trade, 3.5 percent; biotech, 2.7 percent; and construction, 2.5 percent.

Seasonal factors and extended benefits accounted for eight-year highs in unemployment insurance claims during the second quarter of 2002, Blake said. Though subsequent claims waned, they still were at elevated post-recession levels.

Blake and his team found hope in Valley housing and home prices. Though home prices continued their steep ascent this summer, with median prices rising to $369,000 and average prices close to $420,000, a recent rise in mortgage rates seems to be slowing the rate of increase.

"There's some hint now of moderation within the September numbers in the rate of growth in prices," Blake said.

The report noted that home sales continued at a record pace this past year and inventories fell to a 2.1-month supply, down from 2.8 months last year.

Valley apartment vacancy rates remain below 3 percent, signaling a persistently tight rental market. In response, average rents in large complexes rose 6.3 percent in 2002, and are on course for an annual increase of 8 percent in 2003.

Among other findings in the report:

Population growth: The area's population grew faster than previously reported, especially in the Valley's Los Angeles city portion, which has averaged 1.8 percent growth since 2000, instead of 0.6 percent, as previously estimated. The Valley population grew by 27,500 (1.9 percent) people in 2002, with more than 13,000 moving into the area and the remainder coming from a natural population increase.

Payroll: The Valley's private sector payroll also grew by 1.5 percent in 2002, but its inflation-adjusted real payroll slipped by 1.2 percent relative to 2001. L.A. County's real private sector payroll dropped by 2.6 percent and California's by 4.5 percent.

Tourism: Recent Valley tourism and travel activity has been a mixed bag. Airport passenger traffic returned to pre-9/11 levels in the first half of 2003, but hotel occupancy rates remain about 5 percentage points below their pre-9/11 levels, and inflation-adjusted real room rates are 10 percent below their pre-9/11 levels.

Schools: Enrollment at Valley public schools grew 4.5 percent in 2002–2003, with the Los Angeles Unified School District growing the most at 5.7 percent. Valley private school enrollment fell 0.4 percent.

A roundup of Census 2002 data revealed that Valley residents are mobile; nearly 50 percent changed residence in the last five years. Most moved from within the county, but about 6 percent moved from elsewhere in California, 7 percent from another state and 11 percent from another country.

Faculty and students at the San Fernando Valley Economic Research Center aim to support the Valley's economy by collecting, analyzing, and reporting on economic, social, and demographic data. For a copy of the "Report of Findings," contact the center at (818) 677-7021 or at sfverc@csun.edu.


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