Higher-paying professional jobs are making their way to the Inland Empire, bolstering an already promising outlook for the two-county region, a new study shows.
The report, prepared for the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG), shows that San Bernardino and Riverside counties have created nearly 350,000 jobs since the economic recovery began in 2011, largely concentrated in the region’s core industries of logistics, health care and construction.
One significant shift is the growth in the professional, management and scientific employment sector, buoyed by an increase in workers with college degrees and the higher demand for professional service providers to support the IE’s strengthening economy.
“For the Inland Empire, the most recent economic data and the overall trend since 2011 provides very good news,” said the report’s author, IE-based economist John Husing. “Looking at the rest of 2018, there is every reason to anticipate growth levels will be sustained given the forces impacting the key sectors that make up the Inland region’s economic base.”
The encouraging outlook for the IE mirrors that of most of the six-county SCAG region, according to in-depth analyses by top economists released on Dec. 6 as part of the Ninth Annual Southern California Economic Summit at the L.A. Hotel Downtown.
“Southern California is one of the fastest-growing population and economic centers in the world, and the decisions we make now will impact us for generations to come,” said SCAG President Alan D. Wapner.
Wapner, who also serves as mayor pro teem of Ontario and president of the Ontario International Airport Authority, said the Inland Empire plays an increasingly vital role in Southern California’s long-term economic vitality.
“Businesses see San Bernardino and Riverside counties as an attractive location with the infrastructure and workforce to support their growth. The emergence of Ontario Airport as a national and international gateway, and the collaborative efforts of government, industry and educational institutions, have created a genuine buzz throughout the region,” Wapner said.
According to Husing’s report, the IE’s continued growth is largely dependent on the five sectors for which it has a competitive advantage:
• Logistics: According to Husing’s report, goods movement will account for 23.6 percent of jobs created from 2011-2018, and continues to grow. By the end of this year, logistics-related industries will employ more than 190,000 people in the Inland Empire.
• Healthcare: A shortage of healthcare workers, a growing -- and aging -- population and an increased number of insured people as a result of the Affordable Care Act have made this one of the fastest-growing career fields in the two counties. The sector was expected to add 2,200 jobs in 2018.
• Construction: This sector has regained its status as a major driver of the Inland Empire’s economy “given its undeveloped land and Southern California’s need for single-family homes, industrial facilities and infrastructure,” the report stated. In 2018, the IE will have added 6,000 jobs, reaching 103,000 overall.
• Manufacturing: This is the one key sector that is still underperforming, with an expected gain of only 300 jobs in 2018.
• Professional, management and scientific work: This sector was expected to add 600 jobs in 2018, lifting its total to 48,700.
The report notes that challenges remain for the Inland Empire, notably poverty levels that remain higher than in neighboring counties.
Today, 16.4 percent of the two-county region’s population -- and 19.3 percent of those under the age of 18 -- live below the poverty line. A key to fixing that is improving educational attainment. Though the number of IE residents with a four-year college degree has doubled since 2000, the overall percentage -- 21.4 percent of the population -- remains below the Southern California average (34.8 percent).