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Southern California bosses, facing low unemployment, hiking wages above U.S. norms

By in Press Enterprise on November 13, 2017

By Jonathan Lansner

Southern California’s labor shortage means local bosses continue to hand out above-average raises.

One federal government pay measurement shows wages in the region rose by 3.2 percent in the past year as local bosses upped pay at a faster pace than peers nationwide for the 12th consecutive quarter.

The third quarter’s year-long wage growth in the “employment cost index” for the five-county region was up from 2.7 percent in the fourth quarter but down from 3.8 percent in 2016’s third quarter.

Yes, the tight job market doesn’t help every worker. But these noteworthy pay hikes come as the number of out-of-work locals falls to pre-recession levels.

Unemployment in Los Angeles and Orange counties has run below 5 percent for 16 consecutive months. Previously, joblessness was last below 5 percent in September 2007. In the Inland Empire, joblessness has been below 7 percent for 26 months after running above that level since February 2008.

Or look at the worker shortfall this way: Southern California job cuts are down dramatically. State employment figures show 690,402 claims were filed for unemployment insurance in the first eight months of 2017 from the four-county region. That’s down 3 percent from the same period a year ago after falling 1.6 percent in 2015. And the claim-filing pace is off an eye-catching 60 percent from 2009.

With bosses having limited options to hire, they must pay up to get and keep talent. The employment cost index shows Southern California wage increases in the summer quarter are high on a national scale: ranking fourth highest among 15 major markets tracked — behind Miami, Seattle, and Washington, D.C. A year ago, Southern California ranked No. 1.

For the entire nation, the employment cost index shows wages rose more modestly: up at a 2.6 percent annual pace in the third quarter vs. 2.4 percent both for […]    

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