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Recession's Numbers Show Many Losses, Few Wins

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The employment numbers the Census Bureau released Tuesday (05/26/12) are, like all statistics, bloodless, a little late in the game, marginally comprehensive, and free of human attachment. These numbers aren't good for Los Angeles or California. The Great Recession burned through nearly every category of work and kind of business.

California had 13.8 million employees in 2006, the bureau tells us. They worked in 878,128 businesses. Four years later, in 2010 (the most recent data), there were 12.5 million Californians employed in 849,875 businesses. The state lost 1.3 million jobs even as the California's population continued to grow.

Manufacturing, construction, real estate, finance and retail businesses took the largest job losses.

(The Census doesn't tally public employees in these numbers. That count -- expected to show even deeper cuts in employment -- will come later.)

Only health care employment showed gains between 2006 and 2010, with a slight increase statewide of about 6,000 jobs.

Job losses in the metropolitan area that includes Los Angeles and northern Orange County followed the same pattern. Total business employment in the region declined by 522,000 from a high of 5.4 million employees in 2006. As the size of the workforce declined, total wages and salaries fell by $3 million dollars (from $243 million in 2006 to $240 million in 2010).

The region had 8,595 fewer businesses at the end of 2010 than it had at the end of 2006. The losses were concentrated in Los Angeles County. More than half of the jobs and businesses that had disappeared by 2010 were here.

The number of larger businesses -- with 100 to more than a 1,000 employees -- declined by 801, continuing the withering of corporate employment in Los Angeles that began in the early 1990s. With those businesses went employee health benefits, profit sharing and pension plans, and their ladder of promotions and potential wage gains. 4,600 businesses with less than 100 employees closed, suggesting that, as always, the small entrepreneur is the first to go under in hard times.

The only area of growth was among business with fewer than five employees. The county added nearly 800.

Los Angeles County had lost 51,764 construction jobs by the end of 2010, along with 97,745 in manufacturing, 59,132 in retail businesses, and 46,132 in financial services. Health care boomed, however, growing by almost 41,000 jobs.

To see the job numbes down to the level of individual ZIP codes, click here.

D. J. Waldie, author and historian, writes about Los Angeles on KCET's SoCal Focus and 1st and Spring blogs.

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