L.A. Manufacturing Base Declines

By AMANDA BRONSTAD
Staff Reporter

Los Angeles County, toppled in 2000 from its perch as the nation's largest manufacturing employment base, again saw jobs slip in 2001.

A report released this week by the L.A. County Economic Development Corp. finds that manufacturing employment slipped by 3.5 percent in Los Angeles County, to 605,700, as the economic downturn, the state's energy crisis and increased costs of doing business kept downward pressure on the sector.

Chicago again had the largest number of manufacturing jobs.

Nearly every subsector surveyed by the EDC saw declines, with the largest, transportation and equipment, showing a drop of 6.9 percent year-over-year. The effect of those losses, in aircraft and motor vehicle parts, was most keenly felt in the South Bay and LAX area, where many defense companies are located, and continued a decade-long trend.

That submarket had lost 46,333 jobs between 1991 and 2001, compared to the San Gabriel Valley, which lost only 8,188.

The broader national downturn was responsible for half the factory job losses in Southern California, said Jack Kyser, chief economist at the EDC, who added that state attitudes toward business were responsible for the balance.

"Anyone who's in economic development is not happy right now because you see the business environment in the state rapidly deteriorating," Kyser said, citing a spate of state legislation now pending that would add to the cost of doing business.

Still, he said, an anticipated general recovery in the economy and slight upticks in apparel manufacturing and defense projects related to Sept. 11 should hold job losses in 2002 to 15,000.

Apparel and textile manufacturing activity has increased during the last six months as orders pick up from post-Sept. 11 cutbacks and importers, fearing a strike at the region's ports, boost production.

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