A tale of two California economies

American tumbled down such a deep economic hole during The Great Recession, the UCLA experts say it will take years to fully recover with present economic growth. (Photo by Saul Gonzalez)
American tumbled down such a deep economic hole during The Great Recession, the UCLA experts say it will take years to fully recover with present economic growth. (Photo by Saul Gonzalez)

Today,  UCLA’s Anderson School of Management released its annual forecast on what’s ahead for the national and state economies. Looking into their collective crystal ball, the UCLA experts see an economy in recovery, but one that’s healing very, very slowly. GDP growth will average 1.9 percent this year, 2.9 percent in 2014, and 3 percent in 2015. The U.S. jobless rate should  fall to 6.9 percent by the end of 2014.

The UCLA forecasters believe California’s jobless rate will drop to 8.8 percent by the end of this year and 7.7 percent by the end of 2014. These trends are moving in the right direction, but way more has to be done to make up for losses experienced during The Great Recession. That looks like a task that will take years, assuming the economy doesn’t suffer any unexpected blows.

One of the most interesting presentations  at the UCLA conference was given by the Anderson School’s senior economist Jerry Nickelsburg. He’s the guy in charge of crunching California’s economic numbers. Nickelsburg had much to say about the details of the state’s economy, such as the rate of employment growth and the tons of freight being flown in and out of California airports.

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But he was most interesting when addressing the big existential challenges facing the Golden State’s economy. Nickelsburg sees a state increasingly split between coastal communities, where the economic recovery is humming along (think San Francisco, Santa Monica and San Diego) and inland areas where job growth and new investment still lag (think Fresno, Stockton and Riverside).

Nickelsburg also wants us to think long and hard about robots and their increasingly important role in our economy. He believes growing numbers of workers in California, often on the lowest income rungs, face a threat from increased automation. He points to self-check out at supermarkets as a perfect example of a job that’s increasingly being turned over to scanners and screens instead of human beings.

Urging us to prepare for the arrival of the robot workforce, Nickelsburg quoted from an unusual source, rapper Ice Cube’s 2010 song “Man vs. Machine:

“The whole world is automated, It needs to be investigated, when people are eliminated…” Ice Cube, Man vs. Machine