Amid the layoffs that are sweeping across L.A.'s industries, some bright spots stand out.
While retail, manufacturing and construction jobs will disappear at a stunning clip, health care services, private education and TV and film production will add jobs.
That's according to a forecast released Feb. 17 by the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp. The county will shed 89,000 jobs and see personal income fall 2 percent in 2009, according to the forecast.
Meanwhile, health care services, hospitals and nursing care are projected to add 15,700 jobs this year and an additional 16,000 in 2010, according to the forecast.
But the economy has also put the health services industry under stress, and Jack Kyser, founder of the Kyser Center for Economic Research at the LAEDC, said it might not escape the next two years unscathed.
As the county's unemployment rate climbed to 9 percent in December, hospitals have seen their emergency rooms fill with more uninsured patients.
At the same time, insurers face mounting pressure to increase profit margins and the economy has cut into hospital endowments, leading some to scale back on hiring or expensive equipment purchases.
In spite of those pressures, Kyser said health care should still grow because the population in L.A. County is projected to rise. That, coupled with an increase in the number of elderly residents, should lead to greater demand for health services and, by extension, more jobs.
"But," he added, "there are just so many negative forces that are operating on that industry."
Jim Lott, executive vice president of the Hospital Association of Southern California trade group, was less optimistic. He said L.A.'s health services industry was braced for a year of declining revenues not a jump in jobs.
"There may not be an appreciable decline in jobs, but we don't see an appreciable increase either," said Lott, who called LAEDC's projections a bit surprising. "We're going to tread water at best."
Lott, who is also an LAEDC board member, said the health care system gets 1 million new patients for every 1 percent rise in unemployment. With the LAEDC projecting unemployment to edge toward 11 percent in 2010, that could put a strain on L.A.-area hospitals. And Lott said more than half of local hospitals already operate at a loss.
"Acceleration of service reduction, employee layoffs and possible closures," Lott said, "that's what we see in the forecast."
Other bright spots
Besides health services, private education, which includes private schools and colleges, is the only other sector expected to add a significant number of jobs. The LAEDC is forecasting an increase of 4,300 positions in 2009 and 4,600 in 2010 as more people take refuge from the dour job market by returning to school.
Public education is not expected to fare as well because government tax rolls will take a hit as consumer spending declines. L.A.'s taxable sales are expected to fall by early 6 percent, one of the steepest declines in decades.
The forecast states the film and TV production industry should show a modest increase in jobs by 2010 as movie studios beef up payrolls for film production, Kyser said. But that will be offset somewhat by TV studios trimming staff as they increase reality programming.
Aerospace, another Southern California staple, will hold relatively stable in 2009, and should receive a boost from Hawthorne-based Space Exploration Technologies Corp., which was selected for a $1.6 billion government rocket contract, according to the forecast. But Kyser said the health of that industry could hinge on whether orders for C-17 military cargo planes which are built at Boeing Co.'s Long Beach facility stay robust.
Retail, manufacturing and construction will each lose tens of thousands of jobs this year, according to the forecast. Governments are expected to cut around 5,000 this year.
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