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Low-Paying Jobs, Lack Of Mobility Putting SoCal On Economic 'Collision Course'?

LOS ANGELES ( — Southern California could be on an economic "collision course" fueled by low-paying jobs that offer little opportunity for upward mobility, economists said Thursday.

More than 400 experts and leaders in government, business and economic development gathered at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel in downtown Los Angeles for the fifth annual Southern California Economic Recovery & Job Creation Summit, where panelists warned low paying jobs with minimal education requirements have replaced higher-paying positions that once sustained the Southland's middle class.

Speakers such as former California State Senate Pro Tem Kevin de León and former Gov. Gray Davis were on hand for the release of reports that found two-thirds of projected job openings in Los Angeles County over the next five years will come from occupations that require a high school diploma or less and little to no work experience.

Two-thirds of jobs in L.A. County, for example, paid less than $22,000 a year, according to Hasan Ikhrata, who heads the Southern California Association of Governments.

But as Ikhrata told KNX 1070 NEWSRADIO, the economic outlook goes beyond a mere lack of jobs.

"I think the issue, the problem is much more complicated," he said. "Jobs relates to skills, education level, and in Southern California, we're not doing so well."

Economic struggles have also hit the Inland Empire, where the manufacturing sector produced only 142 jobs in 2013 and is on track to add a mere 125 jobs this year, according to economists.

And despite projections of a 90 percent chance of employment totals returning to pre-recession levels sometime in 2015 in Orange County, job growth in predominantly low-wage sectors and an increase in housing prices pose a significant risk to steady economic growth, economists said.

The summit comes one year after SCAG reported that one in four children in the six-county region live in poverty.

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