More visitors mean more jobs, and that's great for the local economy. Not so great is the pay for many of these workers. The average wage for a tourism-related job is $35,000 - that's almost $20,000 below the average county salary. The numbers are even lower for restaurants and fast-food outlets where the average wage is more like $18,000. (The average wage in the entertainment industry is $110,000.) This is your have- and have-not economy at play. From this week's Business Update on KPCC:
Steve Julian: Are there jobs outside hotels and restaurants?
Mark Lacter: Yes, there are jobs, but as we know by now this is a very uneven recovery, and a lot depends on the industry - and even the location (Northern California has tended to do a little better than Southern California and the coastal regions are especially strong). You can see this in places like Santa Monica, El Segundo, Venice - areas that are being dubbed Silicon Beach. These are not the giant technology companies like Apple or Intel up north - they're generally a hodgepodge of advertising, marketing, and entertainment businesses. YouTube, for example, just opened a production facility in the old Hughes Aircraft offices in Playa Vista. Point is there are job opportunities at these places. But they're not the kinds of jobs that would be available to, say, a high school dropout who is struggling to make ends meet at the local McDonalds.
Julian: It always seems to get back to education.
Lacter: That's right. I mean, roughly one-fifth of L.A. County's workforce has not completed high school (that's actually an improvement from what the rate had been in 2010). You know, in the old days, folks with lower-wage jobs could typically advance to higher-paying construction and manufacturing positions, but L.A. County alone has lost hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs since 1990 and they're simply not going to come back, no matter what the politicians keep promising.
Julian: Or, no matter what happens to the overall economy.
Lacter: That's the dirty little reality. So, while the employment situation has clearly gotten better, with L.A. County adding about 70,000 payroll jobs in 2012, the deck is really stacked against this large portion of the workforce and you can't just wave a magic wand and give these folks high school and college degrees. Steve, it's a problem that could be us for decades, and no one has any great answers.