The Inland Empire has regained the jobs lost during the coronavirus public health lockdowns and ensuing business closures, but wages for most occupations are failing to keep up with raging inflation, according to a report released Wednesday by the UC Riverside School of Business’ Center for Economic Forecasting.
“The Inland Empire has now reached the point where we can talk about job growth as opposed to recovery,” center Research Manager Taner Osman said in the spring 2022 Regional Intelligence Report.
Osman pointed to data from the California Employment Development Department indicating that, compared to April 2020 — the first full month of lockdowns — the region has added back 151,200 jobs, a figure that is slightly more than the total positions documented as lost because of the restrictions.
However, the upbeat development is muted because of the 40-year-high inflation levels now thrashing consumers’ pocketbooks and driving up business’ expenses, according to the report.
From the third quarter of 2020 to the third quarter of 2021, nominal wage growth in Riverside County was 3%, but “these increases mark a decrease in real wages due to today’s historic inflation,” the report said.
For the 12-month period ending in February, the overall rate of inflation was roughly 8% nationwide, the highest since 1982, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Fuel prices — based on a gallon of regular gasoline — are up just over 50% in the same one-year period, according to the Auto Club.
“Spending in this category is almost certain to continue spiraling upwards over the near-term future,” according to the UCR report.
It noted that housing prices have been rising at a torrid pace as well, with asking prices in the Inland Empire up 18% in the year-over-year period ending in the fourth quarter of 2021.
“Despite the increase, relative to the rest of Southern California, the region continues to be a haven of affordability,” the report said.
The complete narrative is available at ucreconomicforecast.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/IE_RIR_Spring2022.pdf.