The entertainment and construction industries in the greater Glendale-Burbank area took a beating during the recession, but professional and technical services have been mostly shielded from the protracted economic downturn.
Jobs in computer programming, legal services and consulting now make up the fourth largest source of employment in the region, according to a Verdugo Workforce Investment Board report on the local economy this week.
Legal jobs experienced a big bump, up 18% from before the recession that took hold at the end of 2007, partly due to the firm LegalZoom moving its headquarters to Glendale, said Don Nakamoto, executive director of the workforce investment board, a nonprofit supported by government funding that operates the Verdugo Jobs Center.
But despite the bright spots, most of the industries in Glendale, Burbank, La Crescenta and La Cañada-Flintridge are still far from recovery.
“We’ve just been kind of stuck, employment-wise,” Nakamoto said at the meeting on Thursday.
While medical work had appeared to be recession-proof, that hasn’t necessarily been the case, despite the number of hospitals in the region.
Locally, medical employment is down 10% compared to pre-recession levels, Nakamoto said, citing state employment statistics.
But the industry looks brighter over the long-term, since more medical professionals will be needed to handle the influx of new patients experts expect. Some of that patient growth will be fueled by new local and state programs providing healthcare coverage for low-income and other eligible individuals.
The Verdugo Workforce Investment Board estimates that an additional 1.7 million people will be eligible for health insurance in Los Angeles County in 2014.
“It potentially can be a real sea change from what’s happening,” Nakamoto said.
The future for the entertainment industry, however, is still cloudy. When motion picture jobs in the region started disappearing, the TV industry was there to cushion the blow. But now TV work is also hard to find, Nakamoto said.
The decline is mostly driven by the entertainment industry moving to other areas with better tax subsidies, such as Atlanta, said George Palazzo, a board member and business representative for the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 729.
But he said there is some job growth in the region when it comes to reality television and productions made specifically for online media.
“Webisodes, mobisodes — it’s on the rise,” Palazzo said.
Verdugo Workforce Investment Board itself may have to deal with a setback. The $2.2 million the Verdugo Jobs Center gets each year from the federal government could be hit cut by 8.2%. And while the organization survives on grants, those opportunities are dwindling, officials reported.
In the past, there were at least six grants available by this time of year. But this year, there was just one, and that was focused solely on employment for military veterans.
“It’s going to create a lot of problems for us into the future,” Nakamoto said.