Los Angeles County is an economic powerhouse, our economy is the 19th in the world. Yet, traditionally, we have not looked to County government to address our economic development.
As former Secretary of Labor, I was amazed by the ability I now have to make a difference in real time. This ability has been strengthened as we have a completely new Board. And I can’t help but also say, with a four woman supermajority, a woman as CEO, County Counsel, Executive Officer and multiple County agencies, you know that this new energy is affecting everyone.
The positive news is that unemployment rates are on a steady decline throughout the state. Today, unemployment is reaching historic lows, still falling to around 5.1 percent from 12.5 percent in 2010! However, we at the County level must continue to be smart about our opportunities to partner with the private sector and make a difference in growing industries like construction. Through strong public private partnerships we can provide a streamlined pathway to well-paying career jobs for our local residents.
But it’s important to not base our success only off of a number of jobs created or workers placed. The quality of these jobs is also extremely important. Jobs must lead to careers in industries that help protect our region’s economy from national and global economic shocks. Sadly, the LA Economic Development Corporation in its recently released 2017-2018 Economic Forecast doesn’t inspire confidence. Los Angeles County has seen the vast majority of new job growth in lower paid, temp administrative support, and retail jobs. These low-wage sectors make up over 25% of our local jobs.
On the other hand, LAEDC also projects that construction employment will increase from around 130,000 jobs today to 150,000 by 2020. That is why the Los Angeles County construction sector should be targeted for specific economic and workforce development opportunities. Our many high-salary jobs and their ability to generate long-term income growth and wealth creation for individuals and families make Los Angeles County a prime location to continue developing our Local and Targeted Worker Hire Policy.
With an opportunity to provide career growth, we also have the opportunity to bring in partners to support continued career pathways and entrepreneurialism in the local construction industry. The Building and Construction Trades unions are a prime example of our County partnerships. They have entered into Project Labor Agreements with numerous public and private agencies across the County. Through an agreement, the Trades are able to send skilled workers to construction projects based on targeted criteria, something they would not be able to do without an Agreement in place.
The construction industry offers solid, middle-class jobs that can support a family. It includes many occupations and trades where individuals facing barriers to employment can gain access to training, apprenticeships, and ultimately, a career. These efforts will help working families achieve greater financial independence and enhance our local economy for decades to come. But more importantly, it’s the County fulfilling its job in ensuring that our residents have access to permanent, local, high-paying jobs.