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Inland jobs' growth beats coast's 5 to 1

The 15-year trend shows bedroom communities becoming more self-sufficient, reducing the need for lengthy commutes.

January 26, 2007|Gary Polakovic | Times Staff Writer

California's inland counties, from the Sierra foothills through the Central Valley to the Inland Empire, saw the number of jobs increase 46% from 1990 to 2005 -- nearly five times the rate of coastal counties, according to a new study.

During that period, inland counties accounted for more than half of the state's job growth, according to the nonprofit California Budget Project, a Sacramento-based research organization. The numbers are from data compiled by the state Employment Development Department.

"It's a dramatic shift in jobs," said Jean Ross, executive director of the project. "As people moved inland, the jobs followed the workforce."

The findings are a bright note for a state that has shed thousands of manufacturing jobs in recent years.

Though such jobs have declined in urban coastal areas, they increased 19% in inland areas and now total about 300,000 in those regions. Riverside and San Bernardino counties increased manufacturing jobs about 55% since 1990, the study found.

For years, Inland Empire leaders lamented the "jobs-to-housing" imbalance as commuters drove from their bedroom communities to work in Los Angeles and Orange counties. But increasingly, workers in the Inland Empire are finding work near home, and communities such as Ontario and Riverside are attracting workers from outside the area.

John Husing, president of the Redlands-based consulting firm Economics and Politics Inc., said Riverside and the Ontario area now offer about 1.2 to 1.5 jobs per household, about the same as Orange County.

"Southern California is not a suburban economy anymore, where everyone goes to one center to work," Husing said. "It's a multi-nodal economy evolving over time, and the newest centers where that is happening" are in the western portion of Riverside and San Bernardino counties.

Other inland areas in the state also showed significant job growth, including Yolo County near Sacramento, which saw a 53% increase; El Dorado County in the Sierra Nevada, which rose 71%; and Madera County in the San Joaquin Valley, up 77%.

Across the board, in various economic sectors, the study found inland job gains. Among the gains by sector: trade, transportation and utilities (63%); public administration (58%); natural resources, mining and construction (52%); and financial services (48%). Those growth rates exceed coastal regions in virtually every sector, the study shows.

Ross says the findings underscore the need for fast-growing areas to adequately plan for more businesses as well as people.

Traffic congestion in particular is acute in places such as Interstate 80 between Lake Tahoe and Sacramento. That highway runs past the Sierra foothill region of Placer County -- which added 77,400 jobs since 1990, a 127% increase, the highest in the state -- and clogs bumper to bumper during rush hour.

"There's been a huge change here," said Robert Richardson, city manager for Auburn, the Placer County seat. "It's shifted from a relatively rural area, especially in the west county, into a truly metro area. I-80 at rush hour is looking more like what you see in major metro areas."

To view the study, visit www.cbp.org.

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gary.polakovic@latimes.com

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