Employment growth is down to a crawl in the Inland Empire, but wages continue to steadily rise and spending remains strong, reflecting ongoing economic strength in the region, according to a report released Monday by the UC Riverside Center for Economic Forecasting & Development.
“Although we’ve seen a recent deceleration in employment growth, the tight Southern California labor market has sustained wage gains — and that’s translating into more spending by businesses and consumers,” said Robert Kleinhenz, executive director of research for the center, which is part of the UCR School of Business. “Looking ahead, with the U.S. expansion now in record-setting territory, the Inland Empire economy may grow more slowly in the coming months but will stay on its current growth trajectory.”
According to figures, from May 2018 to May 2019, non-agricultural employment increased about 1.7 percent regionally, roughly in line with statewide trends. The labor force, or pool of available workers, only expanded by one-tenth of a percent during the same period, the report stated.
Health care and education outpaced all other sectors of the regional economy for jobs, altogether adding 11,400 positions from May 2018 to May of this year, data showed.
Earnings in the region were up 2.6 percent from the end of 2017 to the end of 2018 — the latest period for data — and that wage growth yielded healthy spending by businesses and consumers, Kleinhenz said.
The top consumer spending category was leisure and hospitality, where taxable receipts climbed 3.7 percent between the first quarter of 2018 and the first quarter of this year, according to the report.
It noted that during the same period, prices for existing single-family homes in the Inland Empire edged up 2 percent, topping residential real estate price expansion in Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties.
However, with the median price of a single-family dwelling in the Inland Empire at $358,900 as of the first quarter of this year, the pre-Great Recession high of $393,400 still remains unsurpassed, according to the report.
Kleinhenz pointed out that the rental vacancy rate in the IE is lower than in Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties, likely because the average asking rent in Riverside and San Bernardino counties is $1,370 a month, compared to an average $1,940 in the other locations.