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LA Economy: Where's the Engine?

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The architecture critic Rayner Banham said that the only way to understand Los Angeles was in motion. The same may be true of understanding the LA economy -- how does it change, and how has it continued to change?

Los Angeles is a huge city and keeps growing. There are very few large corporate headquarters left in Los Angeles since the end of the Cold War shrank the weapons factories and a lot of banks consolidated and moved their headquarters to places like Charlotte. Yet people keep moving here, seeking the California/American dream of a better life. Where are they working? The LA Economy Project, trying to figure it out, produced a big report, based partly on data from Dun & Bradstreet, the Milken Institute, the US Census, the California Employment Development Department, and other sources. It's a long study and we may be oversimplifying some of the results. If you want to read only part of it, we suggest the Executive Summary and the "Labor Market" section.

If you've developed any hunches about the Los Angeles economy by driving around and looking, this study may help confirm them numerically. You may see some big offices and chain stores and a lot of little family-run restaurants, dry cleaners, barber shops, and so on. Indeed, the study confirms, "Most Los Angeles firms are small, employing few individuals and having low sales, with a very small number of firms with large numbers of employees and high sales."