Tracking Inland Southern California's job market in 2012 was an exercise loaded with ups and downs, from the summer's strong spurt of growth to a weak fourth quarter dominated by indecision blamed on a murky political climate.
Economists will get a much more accurate picture of the economy in San Bernardino and Riverside counties Friday when the state releases its January jobs data, the one report each year that's augmented by fresh federal data.
The monthly reports on job growth and unemployment for California's cities and counties, usually released by the state Employment Development Department on the third Friday of each month, are largely estimations. The state comes up with the data by surveying a relatively small number of employers, usually fairly large ones.
But the January report incorporates more detailed information from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, a process called "benchmarking." That report, distilled from statements from all employers, always is issued two or three weeks later than usual to allow time for this process, which explains why the Inland area's January figures are coming out March 8.
Chapman University economist Esmael Adibi said he is expecting the benchmarks to come in "a little higher," meaning the Inland area probably will learn that more jobs were created than originally believed. He said in an email that federal data already has been benchmarked and came in higher than first anticipated, and it was likely California would fall the same way.
"EDD always underestimates the job growth during early stages of recovery, missing small businesses that are formed or small businesses that are adding one or two employees," Adibi said in the email.
In July 2012, job growth in the Inland counties was 2.2 percent higher than the same month in 2011, making it the healthiest month in five years. But that figure tapered off sharply in the fall, after a contentious election cycle and a debate in Washington over tax codes.
In November, the year-over-year job growth was down to 0.9 percent, and that increased only slightly, to 1.1 percent, in December.
Redlands-based economist John Husing said he believes the benchmarking will show more jobs were created in the Inland Empire than originally believed, possibly raising the total of new jobs in the area to as many as 20,000, which would mean about 1.8 percent growth. That would indicate some economic recovery for the area, although nothing close to the 5 percent job growth seen during the boom years.
The state will release job growth and unemployment data for February on March 22.
Also, the federal government will report national job figures for February on Friday.
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