A new report issued by the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation delves into the job losses, industry contractions, and economic hardships that have hit the county during the pandemic, and attempts to lay out policy recommendations that might help create a recovery that is both good for business and mindful of improving equity.
“Low income workers, people of color, and women have borne the brunt of the economic pain of this pandemic,” L.A. County Supervisor Janice Hahn said in a statement accompanying the report’s release. “When we rebuild, we must keep them in mind and build a modern economy that works for our workers and that allows families in Los Angeles County to not just get by, but thrive.”
LAEDC is a non-profit, non-governmental organization, founded in 1981 to “harness the power of private sector collaboration with L.A. County.”
The report, titled “Pathways for Economic Resiliency,” is full of bleak statistics. It finds that, as of late 2020, overall employment in the county was down 9.8 percent compared to the same point in 2019–and that 9.8 percent was not distributed evenly across the population. Individuals filing for unemployment where more likely to be people of color, women, and those without college degrees.
Between February and November of last year, LAEDC reports, 20,000 more people in Los Angeles County became homeless.
Even in 2021, with commerce reopening, the county is projected to have 354,000 fewer “living wage jobs” than before the pandemic, and would need to add a total of 738,672 jobs at that wage level for everyone in the county’s eligible workforce to be able to earn a sustainable living.
The study also lays out the industries that were hardest hit by job losses in 2020: hospitality (125,900 jobs lost year over year); arts, entertainment, and recreation (37,300 jobs lost); motion picture and sound recording (36,500 jobs lost); non-essential retail (23,400 jobs lost); and personal care and laundry services (20,400 jobs lost).
Businesses, particularly small businesses, have struggled as well. The report finds that 62 percent of businesses in the county say they have less than two months of operating cash on hand, and at least 15,000 local businesses have permanently closed due to the pandemic.
“This pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on women, people of color, and households with lower incomes,” L.A. County Board of Supervisors Chair Hilda L. Solis said in the statement. “I am bringing forth a motion to the Board of Supervisors that, if passed, will act quickly to implement many of this report’s recommendations. If approved, the motion will enable L.A. County to lay a foundation for better jobs and a higher quality of life for all.”
That motion, submitted on February 9, calls for what Solis terms a “countywide strategy for equitable economic recovery.” That strategy would include adopting or extending eight specific responses laid out in the report to support the most vulnerable groups. Responses include creating incentives for growing companies to hire workers who have been laid off amid the pandemic, and providing childcare and internet subsides, virus safety supplies, and training to individuals who need them.
Not all of the recommendations are as uncontroversial as handing out free PPE, however. One of the eight points that appear in Solis’s motion is “Optimize use of public lands to catalyze economic development opportunities.”
Her motion requires a county workgroup on pandemic response to study the recommendations and report back in 45 days with more information.
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