Los Angeles is in danger of becoming a failed city


San Francisco and Silicon Valley may be booming. L.A. is not. Unemployment is high, 8.7%. The city has massive unfunded pension liabilities. Big business is increasingly leaving L.A. And then there’s the continual, insane amounts of traffic. Sue and I lived in L.A. for years and everytime we go back are astonished that yes, the traffic has indeed continued to get worse. Increasingly, the thrill is gone from L.A.

The bad news is that both the city’s short-term and long-term prospects are grim as its core 20th-century industries struggle or vanish. Aviation and manufacturing, both of which used to be huge within city limits, are all but gone. And the film/TV industry has never done more of its shooting outside of L.A., leading to panicked state lawmakers passing an emergency increase in Hollywood subsidies in recent weeks after being begged to do so by city lawmakers.

Is it really that bad? Yes.

Cleveland and Detroit – cities that have become shorthand for widespread urban failure – have nothing on Los Angeles when it comes to long-term decline in payroll jobs. Dead last among major U.S. cities, Los Angeles has lost a painful 3.1 percent of its payroll jobs since 1990, even as the population grew nearly 11 percent. By contrast, payroll jobs in the United States overall grew by 26 percent during the same period.


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