US Warehouse Capital Booms Then Slows During Pandemic

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The Inland Empire of Southern California is, without a doubt, the nation’s warehousing capital. Once benefiting from the pandemic-era supply-chain chaos, it is now facing a decline, pointing to a potential nationwide recession.

The region’s San Bernardino and Riverside counties registered an unemployment rate of 4.4% in January; the highest in almost a year. The transportation, trade and utilities sector has stopped hiring, and the sector’s average hourly pay of around $20 fails to measure up to the national rate for all occupations.

Melissa Ojeda, a former Amazon facility worker in San Bernardino, knows the struggle of finding a steady job in the Inland Empire all too well. With prices for food and gas rising and wages not keeping up, she decided to take a job in a non-profit advocating for warehouse workers’ rights rather than struggling paycheck to paycheck.

Employees at Amazon’s hub in San Bernardino get wages that start at $18 an hour. Nevertheless, according to Johannes Moenius, an economist at the local University of Redlands, job growth in warehousing may lead to a fall if the industry slows down.

For the future, renowned local authorities, such as Manfred Keil, the chief economist at the Inland Empire Economic Partnership, are asking for a $100 billion investment in the region’s logistics industry. The discussion around environmental impacts increases, as well, with some communities fighting industrial development due to the area’s already high rates of asthma, heart disease and low birth rates.

In order to make the Inland Empire resilient in the face of future economic downturns and make more jobs that pay higher and have better working conditions, authorities are looking for ways to diversify their economy. By investing in the development of scientific services and health care industries, the area’s future may look somewhat brighter away from its notorious boom-and-bust cycle.