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Top 5 Things to Know About the IE COVID Economy


The Inland Empire, including Riverside and San Bernardino counties, is California’s third largest metropolitan area by population. In October, Pacific Premier Bank sponsored an economic conference in association with UC Riverside’s School of Business Center for Economic Forecasting & Development to discuss the effects of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on the Inland Empire’s economy and to provide an economic forecast for 2021. 

Like other metro areas in California, the IE’s economy has felt the negative effects of the pandemic, but the IE has continued to steadily recover. Here, we share five key takeaways about the Inland Empire COVID-19 economy.

1. The Inland Empire has added 74,700 jobs since April 2020.

Similar to the rest of California, employment levels in the IE have declined compared to 2019; however, the IE’s job growth has continued to outpace California. Since April, the IE has added 74,700 jobs, with the unemployment rate currently hovering around 9.8%, compared to 3.9% this time last year. Wages have also been steadily rising, though at a slower pace when compared year-over-year.

2. E-commerce demand has aided in the area’s Transportation, Warehousing, and Utilities sector’s resiliency.

Growth in this sector has outpaced growth in the state, thanks in most part to the demand for industrial space in the Inland Empire, with new stock continuing to come online at a steady pace year after year. Cargo activity has also started to recover in recent months with assistance from the Ontario International Airport. Plus, payrolls in this sector have only fallen 0.2% over the last year, compared with a 3.9% decline in the state overall.

3. The Inland Empire remains one of the more affordable areas to live in Southern California.

Between the second quarter of 2019 and the second quarter of 2020, the IE saw the largest existing single-family home price growth (5.7%) among all of Southern California’s major metro areas. While low interest rates have made homes more affordable, the pandemic has caused inventories to decline significantly. New construction is still lagging compared to activity prior to the recession.

4. The Inland Empire’s population is rising, although slowly.

The Inland Empire, consisting of both Riverside and San Bernardino counties, has a population of 4.6 million people, which has grown by 0.9% year-over-year. Affordable housing, especially when compared to the rest of Southern California, is a key factor in the IE’s population growth, but most of the higher paying jobs remain in Los Angeles, Orange, and San Diego counties. 

5. The recession is technically over, but the path to recovery looms ahead.

The IE’s path to recovery will depend on containing the COVID-19 virus in order to sustain the region’s economic recovery. In the IE and much of the nation, cases rose in the middle of summer. The good news is the Inland Empire’s seven-day average of daily new cases has fallen rapidly in recent weeks.

According to UC Riverside’s Center for Economic Forecasting & Development officials, good things are to come in the Inland Empire’s near future: The third quarter will experience an astounding 35% growth rate, erasing most of the gap generated in the second quarter.


Economic Forecast Summary

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