Economic Cheer, and Gloom Too

The latest economic assessment of Los Angeles County and the state as a whole is upbeat and optimistic, like other recent forecasts. Funny, most of us don't feel that way. But then it just may take more time for Southern Californians to shake off the psychological effects of the state's deep recession. After all, Los Angeles County alone suffered about 71% of all job losses in the state from 1990 to 1993. That's not easy to get over; few families have gone unscathed.

But take heart. The trends are encouraging. The decline in aerospace employment is bottoming out, with modest job gains expected this year, according to a report by the Economic Development Corp. of Los Angeles County, a private, nonprofit jobs promotion agency. Home prices already are rising in Orange and Ventura counties, and the slide appears to have stopped in the Los Angeles and Riverside-San Bernardino area.

The overall job outlook is bright for the five-county Southern California region. Nonfarm employment is projected to rise at 2.3% this year and another 2.3% in 1997. Total personal income is projected to be up 6.6% in 1996 and 6.3% in 1997. Local inflation is projected at a mere 1.7% in both years, less than the forecast for the state and nation.

Healthy growth is expected for apparel design and manufacturing, professional management services, international trade, motion picture and television production, tourism, wholesale trade, new home construction and health services. The region also stands to benefit from the initial federal funding of the $1.8-billion Alameda Corridor Project, the award of the reusable space shuttle contract to Lockheed Martin's "Skunk Works" in Palmdale and the $3-billion expansion of Disneyland and improvement around the park in Anaheim.

True, the economic rebound is not being shared by some economic sectors. Local governments, for example, are still in difficult financial straits as they continue to grapple with budget shortfalls. Nonresidential construction is proving to be slow in recovering, and more jobs may be lost due to recent mergers and acquisitions in financial services and retailing.

The rebound also is eluding many individual households. Credit card delinquencies are up, and so are home foreclosures. And though Los Angeles County is adding jobs, the record employment levels of December 1989 are not likely to be matched until 1999, according to the study. No wonder the latest Times poll showed that 61% of all Californians still feel we have not emerged from recession. Northern Californians, who were more optimistic, recorded a 53% figure, but both L.A. County and all of Southern California came in at a less than cheery figure of about 65%. After all, it took decades for people who lived through the Great Depression to shake its effects. We ought to expect at least a few years of hangover.

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