The number of Inland Southern California residents who commute to jobs
in the coastal counties could be at an all-time high, an economic study released
late last week found.
Los Angeles-based Beacon Economics based these findings on the discrepancy between two sets of data that the state Employment Development Department releases each month to provide the Inland area with a snapshot on the state of the economy. The first set indicates how many payroll jobs are being offered each month by employers in Riverside and San Bernardino counties.
The second set, commonly called the household survey, shows how many Inland residents are receiving any kind of work anywhere. This includes people who are self-employed or who work off the books for someone, but a big part of that segment of the workforce covers local residents whose jobs are in Los Angeles, Orange or San Diego counties.
And right now the difference between those two bits of data is at an all-time high, Beacon economist Jordan Levine said, leading him to surmise that an unusually high number of Inland Empire workers are commuting to coastal counties every day.
The household survey is currently 28 percent higher than the payroll one. Beacon Economics considers a 24 percent spread to be a normal differential.
Levine said it could mean that the Inland economy, which has shown very weak job growth in the last three months, is actually healthier than believed. It also explains why unemployment in Orange County was at 6.1 percent in June and 7.3 percent in San Diego County but at 10.2 percent in San Bernardino and Riverside counties.
Employers in the coastal areas usually pay higher salaries than those in the Inland Empire, but Levine believes housing prices are the reason for the apparent uptick in commuters. The average Inland worker drives about 25 miles to get to work every day, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.
"Prices have gone down to a point where you save money by going to live in the Inland Empire," Levine said. "That discount is so big they're willing to commute to get more on a house, or save money by going Inland and buying something smaller."
Anecdotally, Levine said, his brother lives in Murrieta and has a lengthy commute to his job in Baldwin Park. But the brother would have to pay much more for the same-sized home if he lived in Los Angeles County.
According to real estate research firm DataQuick, the median-priced home in Riverside County sold for $269,250 in Riverside County in June and $204,000 in San Bernardino County. In Orange County the median sales price is $545,000 in Orange County, $425,000 in Los Angeles County and $416,500 in San Diego County.
Levine said eventually the Inland Empire will have the jobs to keep workers closer to home. "There's slow growth, and as it starts to pick up steam there will be job opportunities," he said.
These demographics are slightly different in Southwest Riverside County, which has more technology-driven jobs and, at least on a per-capita basis, a better educated workforce, said Morris Myers, executive director of the Economic Development Corp. of Southwest California.
But the earliest growth in Temecula and Murrieta came from a migration northward from San Diego County, which has an established tech-based economy.
"You still see a lot of traffic heading south on I-15 every day," Myers said.
(c)2013 The Press-Enterprise (Riverside, Calif.)
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