Unemployment and underemployment currently represent $25.8 billion in annual wages not earned in Los Angeles County, $28.2 billion in lost private sector economic activity and $4 billion in tax revenue not generated. Over a fifth of Los Angeles County’s labor force is unemployed or underemployed. Over a third of the county’s population lives in a household where one or more breadwinners are under-employed.
Inadequate housing takes different forms, all of which are detrimental to the well-being of families and individuals. The most prevalent problem is housing that costs more than households can afford to pay. The causes include a housing inventory that has grown slightly less than the population and renter incomes that have increased much less than the cost of housing.
At the peak of California’s most recent drought in 2009, the Los Angeles economy was in severe recession, with unemployment above 12 percent. These twin crises identified a policy opportunity to tackle both challenges together. Public investments in water use efficiency provide economic and job benefits alongside the environmental benefits from using less water.
The triage tool, or crisis indicator, identifies homeless individuals in hospitals and jails who have continuing crises in their lives that create very high public costs. This redesigned tool is four times more accurate than the earlier screening tool released in 2010. The tool is developed for use in jails, hospitals and clinics where homeless individuals with high levels of need and high public costs are most likely to be found. Discovery of the exceptionally high public costs for people in the 10th cost decile has led to interest in identifying these individuals and giving them high priority for access to permanent supportive housing. This group accounts for well over half of all public costs for homeless adults, and their costs decrease by 86 percent when they live in permanent supportive housing.
Counties bear large hidden costs for individuals with disabilities who are indigent or homeless. This includes costs for health care, jails and probation in addition to readily identifiable county costs for public assistance. A large share of this cost is health related – costs that the federal and state governments would pay through Medi-Cal if the individuals were receiving Supplemental Social Security Income (SSI).
The central question investigated in this study is the public costs for people in supportive housing compared to similar people that are homeless. The typical public cost for residents in supportive housing is $605 a month. The typical public cost for similar homeless persons is $2,897, five-times greater than their counterparts that are housed. This remarkable finding demonstrates that practical, tangible public benefits result from providing supportive housing for vulnerable homeless individuals. The stabilizing effect of housing plus supportive care is demonstrated by a 79 percent reduction in public costs for these residents.
Severe overcrowding in Los Angeles rental housing fell 63 percent from 2000 to 2007, the most recent year for which data is available. Only 9 percent of renters are severely overcrowded, with 1.5 or more occupants per room. The bad news is that 58 percent of renters are rent-burdened, paying 30 percent or more of their income for rent.
The most concrete characteristic of a recession is that demand disappears for some of the commodities produced by workers and unwanted unemployment is imposed on a large segment of the labor force. With growing job losses in the current recession it is important to know, whose boat falls when the economic tide recedes?
A budget for providing basic family necessities in Los Angeles calls for an annual income of $49,135 for one parent with two children and $54,078 for two parents with two children. The income for providing basic family necessities is about two and a half times greater than the poverty threshold.
Most people agree that union jobs typically pay better than nonunion jobs. But what is not as widely discussed is the role unions play in stimulating the broader economy. A recent study by my organization, the Economic Roundtable, found that union workers in Los Angeles County earn an average of 27 percent more than nonunion workers in the same job, a figure that does not include differences in other types of compensation like health insurance.
Poverty adversely affects the lives of Los Angeles residents as well as the City as a whole. Among other things, poverty has a direct financial impact on local government because of above-average per capita costs for municipal services related to police and fire protection, courts, education, and other services in poor neighborhoods.
Union members make up roughly 15 percent of LA’s labor force. The economic context for unions in Los Angeles is a formal labor market that has been stagnant since 1990, with all net job growth occurring in the informal economy. More than a quarter of the labor force is impoverished.