Los Angeles County’s largest private-sector employers combined to grow their workforce by 3.3 percent over the past year, while public-sector firms edged up staffing 0.7 percent.

Government agencies, universities, health care companies, retailers, aerospace manufacturing and the entertainment sector all were among the region’s top job creators on the Business Journal’s lists of private- and public-sector employers as ranked by number of workers in the county.

The 50 companies on the private-sector list (see page 12) together had 393,635 employees based on the most recent data available, up from 381,021 last year. The 25 top public-sector employers (see page 16) totaled 402,271 workers, an increase from 399,443.

The local economy overall generated a 0.9 percent increase in employment over the same period, adding 42,700 jobs in the civilian sector for a total of 5,043,300, according to the state’s Employment Development Department.

Oakland-based nonprofit health provider Kaiser Permanente repeated as the biggest private-sector employer this year at about 36,468 employees. USC came in second with 20,163.

Kaiser Permanente, which was down slightly from 36,987 employees last year, has topped the list for several years. Regional economic analysts said it and other local health care companies are expected to remain top employers as the sector continues to do well with a surge in service demand stemming from an aging baby boomer population.

“I’m in very good health, but I’m amazed at how much more health care I need today at 69 than when I was 29 or 49, and so I see no drop in the number of people employed in health care, nor do I see any reductions in the research around health care,” said Gary Toebben, chief executive of downtown-based Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce.

Kaiser Permanente’s employment figure in the Business Journal list does not count the number of physicians who serve members of the organization as they are employed under a separate entity called Southern California Permanente Medical Group, based in Pasadena. The number of physicians who serve Kaiser Permanente members this year number at 4,556, said Lowell Goodman, spokesman for Kaiser Permanente.

The nonprofit, which in Southern California is headed by President Julie Miller-Phipps, expects staffing to grow as it opens two medical office buildings in the Baldwin Hills-Crenshaw area in September and in Irwindale in early 2019, as well as a new school of medicine in Pasadena in fall 2019, Goodman said.

USC’s campus in South Los Angeles also remained a top employer in the county.

“We really do believe we are a major economic engine for the region,” said university spokesman Thomas Sayles. “In fact, we had Beacon Economics conduct an economic impact study for the university showing that our annual economic impact for the state of California is $8 billion. … Annually, we employ 53,000 jobs, both direct and indirect.”

Sayles said USC is in the process of planning a biotechnology park at its health science campus and the hope is to get the development operating within five years, if everything is approved.

Private-sector rankings

Aerospace also had a strong showing, with several companies on the private-sector employers list. At No. 3 was Falls Church, Va.-based Northrup Grumman Corp., staying steady 16,600 employees.

“They obviously have done a good job of continuing to generate contracts because most of the work down here in Southern California is in the area of research and manufacturing,” Toebben said. “They still have a lot of employees. People who have lived in Southern California remember a time when there were so many more aerospace jobs, but I think the bottom line is there are still a lot of aerospace jobs in Los Angeles County, even though there are not nearly as many as there would have been 30 years ago.”

At No. 4 was Torrance-based Providence Health & Services Southern California with 15,255 local workers.

Minneapolis-based Target and Cincinnati-based Kroger Co., which owns Ralphs/Food 4 Less, came in at Nos. 6 and 7, respectively, with each at about 15,000 employees. Those companies were followed by Walt Disney Co. and Albertson/Vons/Pavilions, whose numbers for this year’s ranking each fall at around 13,000 employees.

Toebben said the high rankings for retailers Target and Ralphs, as well as other grocers on the list, are significant in light of increasing business competition.

“If you were to talk about Target’s employment being at the same level as it was a year ago, in the midst of Amazon selling everything, I would think you would say Target is doing pretty well,” he said. “In terms of Ralphs, competition in the grocery industry is severe, and when you add that to the fact that more people are eating meals out today than ever before, that’s very challenging.”

Public-sector rankings

Los Angeles County remained the top public-sector employer in the region with 108,995 employees this year. It serves 10 million residents and will operate on a budget this year of $29.9 billion.

“Los Angeles County is the largest public-sector employer because our responsibilities are so broad across so many different fronts,” county spokesman Joel Sappell said in a statement. “We’re talking about everything from social service agencies to public hospitals to the criminal justice system to the parks and the beaches. A lot of people don’t know that the Hollywood Bowl, (Los Angeles County Museum of Art), the Disney Concert Hall – these are all county facilities and services. The workforce number is big because the work of the county is big and vital to the public.”

The Los Angeles Unified School District followed as the second-largest public-sector employer in the region, with 60,015 employees. UCLA ranked No. 3 with 47,596, Long Beach’s Greater Los Angeles Federal Executive Board came in fourth with 47,000 and the city of Los Angeles was fifth with 32,987.

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