Inland Empire Business Activity Index

Quarter 1 | 2018

The Inland Empire Business Activity Index tracks performance of the Inland Empire regional economy on a quarterly basis and is adjusted for seasonal variations. The composite indicator is estimated using a wide range of economic data including employment, economic output, income, real estate, and other indicators at the national, state, and metropolitan level.


Business activity in the Inland Empire has been growing at a steady clip, increasing at a 2.2% annualized rate during the first quarter of 2018, according to the Inland Empire Business Activity Index produced by the UC Riverside School of Business Center for Economic Forecasting and Development. This was virtually the same rate of growth as U.S. gross domestic product (GDP), which advanced by 2.3% in the first quarter of this year, but below the Center’s estimate of California’s Gross State Product, which came in at 3.0%. In year-over-year terms, business activity in the Inland Empire grew by 3.8% from the first quarter of 2017 to the first quarter of 2018, faster than the rate of growth for U.S. GDP, where year-over-year growth now stands at 2.9%.

Moreover, the Inland Empire’s estimated business activity in the fourth quarter of 2017 was 3.0% over the third quarter. The fourth quarter growth rate was also slightly above the fourth quarter growth rate for U.S. GDP, which came in at 2.9%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. In terms of real output per nonfarm worker, per capita gross output in the Inland Empire increased 0.4% in the first quarter of 2018 over the first quarter of 2017, half the rate of the state where output increased 0.8%.

The ongoing strength of business activity in the Inland Empire has been fueled by robust job growth. Total nonfarm employment in the Inland Empire grew 2.9% year-over-year as of March 2018, outperforming both the state (+1.9%) and the nation (+1.6%).  Exceedingly high housing costs along the California coast have further fueled growth in the inland regions of the state, and the Inland Empire remains the fastest growing job market in Southern California.


The Inland Empire’s economy currently remains on a steady growth trajectory, but the direction it takes in the future depends in part on its underlying structure. To understand that structure means knowing which industries serve as pillars for the regional economy – and knowing how well those industries are performing. Location quotients are one way to gauge the strength of the Inland Empire’s major industries relative to California. For example, if a given industry in the Inland Empire has a location quotient (LQ) of 2, then local employment in that industry is twice as concentrated relative to California. Similarly, if the LQ of an industry is 0.5, the concentration of that industry’s employment in the region is half that of the state, while an industry with an LQ of 1.0 implies that employment in that industry has the same concentration as the state.

Not surprisingly, the Logistics sector, which is comprised primarily of Trade, Transportation, and Warehousing, is the region’s most concentrated (LQ 1.39) industry. It was also the second-fastest growing during the three-year period between 2014 and 2017. Construction (LQ 1.36) was the Inland Empire’s fastest growing industry, but construction activity levels still remain below their pre-recession peak. The Inland Empire’s Government sector also stands out as being particularly concentrated in the region (LQ 1.13). Other industries, such as Health Care and Leisure and Hospitality, are on a par with the state, but have seen impressive growth in response to local population gains. It should be noted that every industry in the Inland Empire has experienced job gains over the past three years, regardless of their relative concentration, with several posting impressive increases.


The Center’s short-term outlook for business activity in the Inland Empire remains positive, with gains expected throughout 2018. Over the year, business activity in the region is forecast to rise between 2.5% and 3.5%. While the Inland Empire can count on years of growth in the Logistics sector and other key industries, the prospect of future labor shortages, caused in part by California’s high cost of living relative to other parts of the nation, could limit growth over the long run.