Los Angeles County is expected to add jobs at a tepid pace this year and next, a discouraging forecast for an economy still climbing back from damage caused by the Great Recession.
The county will add 30,400 nonfarm jobs this year, representing 0.8 percent annual employment growth, according to a forecast to be released today.
While weak, that is still better than last year's growth of 0.6 percent, the forecast by the Kyser Center for Economic Research says.
For 2013, the county's economy will add 45,800 jobs, a 1.2 percent increase.
"We need to grow by 2.5 to 3 percent in L.A. County to bring down the unemployment rate in a reasonable amount of time," Kyser Center chief economist Robert Kleinhenz said. "We're moving in the right direction, but we're moving at about half the speed that we ideally should be moving."
The county's unemployment rate is projected to fall to an average of 11.5 percent this year, down from 12.3 percent last year, the forecast says.
In 2013, the jobless rate is expected to fall to 10.8 percent.
The weakness in job growth is largely a result of skittish consumers unwilling to spend like they did before the recession, Kleinhenz said. Consumers account for about 70 percent of economic activity nationwide.
Consumers feel constrained by the uncertain jobs picture, difficulty securing credit, diminished real estate values and the constant drumbeat of bad economic news from Spain to Washington, D.C., he said.
"They know things are just not quite back to normal, and that causes hesitation in their spending patterns," he said. "If consumers are not ramping up spending, that's holding back the entire economy."
Forecasted job growth varies widely in the county's different regions.
In the South Bay -- excluding San Pedro -- the private sector is expected to add 4,300 jobs this year, a 1.1 percent increase. Next year will bring another 6,300 positions, an improvement of 1.6 percent.
The South Bay's growth will come with the help of professional and business services, which includes fields like computer systems design and advertising.
The sub-county forecast excludes government jobs, which represent about 15 percent of county employment.
The county's Gateway area, including Long Beach and San Pedro, will see 0.8 percent growth this year, or 4,500 new jobs. Next year will bring 1.5 percent growth, or 8,300 positions.
Retail trade, leisure and hospitality, and education and health care services are projected to help the Gateway area grow.
The San Fernando Valley, which stretches from Glendale and Burbank in the east to Sylmar and Woodland Hills, will gain a boost from a thriving information sector, particularly in the eastern part of that region.
Job growth will reach 1.3 percent this year, representing an addition of 9,200 jobs. In 2013, growth will hit 1.9 percent, or 11,800 new jobs.
Employment in the aerospace industry, which provides high-paying positions for educated skilled workers, is "holding its own," Kleinhenz said. "It came back a little bit from last year from the lowest levels we saw. And that should remain level this year."
Last year, the sector employed 180,200 people countywide, accounting for 4.7 percent of all nonfarm jobs. So far this year, aerospace has grown 1.3 percent.
However, reductions in the federal budget and possible across-the-board spending cuts -- if a federal budget deal is not reached by the end of the year -- could harm the aerospace sector as well as others.
International trade through the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach will continue to improve, with 14.5 million containers passing through this year and 15.1 million next year. That is still below the 2006 peak of 15.8 million.
"It's going to be some time before that comes back," Kleinhenz said.
The entertainment industry saw 3.5 percent growth last year, adding 125,100 jobs. The sector is up 2.1 percent so far for 2012.
The housing sector, which helped bring on the Great Recession, "looks like it's on the mend," he said.
Many of the housing market's fundamentals are improving, making a rebound more likely.
"In a couple of years it's going to look closer to normal," he said.
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