A graph showing the downward trend of the city's unemployment rate since 2007. Photo courtesy of the City of Long Beach.
The downward trend of unemployment in the City of Long Beach continued today, as the city released its April figures, showing that Long Beach currently has a 5.5 percent unemployment rate, the same mark witnessed in June 2007 before the global financial crash. In total, the local economy has added 21,600 jobs since July 2010, when the unemployment figure peaked at 14.6 percent.
The city’s unemployment rate has followed the same arc that the national unemployment rate has. That number peaked in October 2009 at 10.2 percent but has since tapered off and now rests at 5 percent as of March. In a statement, Mayor Robert Garcia noted the recent gains and pushed for a continued focus by consumers on shopping local to nurture the economy.
“Economic activity in Long Beach continues to grow along with the number of jobs,” Garcia said in a statement. “I strongly encourage every resident and visitor to support local businesses, because every dollar spent locally helps to create jobs, and provides funding for public safety, parks and libraries.”
According to the release, the four biggest clusters of employment in the city are international trade and logistics (20.9 percent), health care and social assistance (17.2 percent), tourism and hospitality (8.7 percent) and the retail sector which employs 8.4 percent of the city’s workers.
The city has seen a large influx of job creation over the past few years including large companies like Mercedes Benz, Virgin Galactic and Universal Technical Institute moving into Douglas Park while a flurry of housing developments in the downtown sector and retail operations have popped up in the Downtown district.
This coupled with large construction projects like the Gerald Desmond Bridge, Middle Harbor Terminal and the new Civic Center have helped lead to the employment total for the city reaching over 225,000 people.
“Looking back over the last five years, at least in this community, we’ve seen more businesses open up and those are the smaller businesses that are actually creating jobs, as well as some of the bigger names that have moved to town and are more of a higher paying job,” said Long Beach Business Ombudsmen Seyed Jalali.
He noted that the 5.5 percent figure does not include those people that have either stopped looking for jobs entirely or have, by federal standards, been dropped off the data matrix because they haven’t sought out work recent enough to be accounted for.
The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has six distinct classifications of unemployment ranging from U1, those employed for 15 weeks or longer, U3, the official unemployment rate most commonly used and U6, a figure that takes into account those that have stopped looking for work (discouraged workers), those that are working part-time but would prefer to work full-time (underemployment) and those “loosely attached” workers that haven’t looked for work in the past four weeks.
The Long Beach figure is based off the U3 measure, and Jalali said he was not sure how many of those included in the employment figures might be underemployed. Typically speaking the U6 figure is about double the U3 number, so the number of unemployed people in Long Beach accounting for those other groups might be closer to 11 percent.
However, he said that by any measure 5.5 percent is a marker of a healthy economy. The BLS ranks for unemployment rates in metropolitan areas lists the Los Angeles-Long Beach area 178 out of 387, tied with the New York-Newark-Jersey City hub.
How much lower that figure could get is something that is hard to calculate though, but Jalali said it would probably bottom out around three percent because no economy will ever reach a zero unemployment figure.
“That would be the utopia, I guess,” Jalali said. “Five and a half percent and if we keep it at this level it signifies that we have a pretty healthy economy. Ideally we would want to push that number as far down as you can but realistically it will never be a zero. That would mean every single living person in this community would be considered to be employed.”