According to the report, unemployment reached 9.3% last January, its lowest point since February 2009. Since July 2011, almost 27,000 residents of the East Bay found jobs, while employers are continuing to supply new jobs locally. Industries fundamental to the long-term strength of the East Bay, including health care and professional, scientific and technical services, are growing by some of the largest margins.
The economic analysis was prepared for the East Bay EDA by Beacon Economics, with a presentation scheduled to follow yesterday morning by Christopher Thornberg, one of California's leading economic forecasters, at a special event at the California Center here in Pleasanton. The report examined many reasons to be optimistic in the East Bay as the economy continues to see post-recession growth. East Bay residents are clearly benefiting from the broader economic recovery.
Thornberg pointed out that strong year-over-year growth in bellwether sectors such as retail shows that the short-term gains in the labor market are not aberrations like some had feared, but rather part of a long-term trend in the East Bay. On top of the positive indicators in the labor market, the abundance of venture capital funding in recent years for companies in the East Bay "harbor the promise of robust economic development in the region," the EDA report states. In terms of investment, in fact, the report shows that East Bay firms are holding their own against the heavyweights of Silicon Valley and possible miscalculations by investors in initial public offerings, including Facebook's debacle this week. In the past two years, according to the EDA, nearly $1 billion of funding went to industrial energy, which will help cement the East Bay's reputation as the epicenter of clean-tech production.
Especially attractive in the otherwise sizzling San Francisco and Peninsula markets are the lower costs of doing business in the East Bay. The EDA reports that the cost of residential real estate in the East Bay remains at historic lows, while the cost of commercial real estate here remains the most affordable in the Bay Area. This is expected to attract the attention of the new and growing businesses that benefit from the continuing economic growth of the region.
As economic growth brings more prosperity to the East Bay in the coming years, the EDA reminds us that there are long-run issues to consider. If addressed, this could have a substantive positive impact on the quality of life for many of us in Pleasanton, the Tri-Valley and beyond. While the percentage of top income earners in our region grew, and grew substantially, the middle class shrank slightly. Pay cuts and salary freezes allowed the gap between those on the top and those in the middle class and lower income groups to grow wider. As economic recovery this year will continue to bring much-needed relief to the East Bay economy, now is also the ideal time to more closely examine these gaps and obstacles to prosperity for many in this vibrant, diverse Tri-Valley.