One of L.A. County's highest, Compton's unemployment rate is still falling

Universal Music Group commissioned The Sky Writers to write 'COMPTON' across the sky earlier this month.
Universal Music Group commissioned The Sky Writers to write 'COMPTON' across the sky earlier this month.
Take Two Producer Austin Cross

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While Compton's unemployment rate remains one of the highest in Southern California, the "Hub City" continues to whittle it down. 

"We're at the beginning of what I call a renaissance in this city," says Mika Black, the Executive Director of the Compton Business Chamber of Commerce.  She boldly predicts the renaissance will be like that of the New York borough of Brooklyn, and says people are rediscovering Compton as a good place to live and do business. 

Compton has made news recently with the debut of the movie "Straight Outta Compton" and because of a controversy involving city officials and some very short meetings, but Compton's jobs outlook hasn't gotten much press. 

A year ago (July 2014), Compton's unemployment rate stood at 13.7 percent, according to estimates from the California Employment Development Department. The rate for Los Angeles County was 9 percent. While L.A. County's jobless rate has fallen nearly two points since then, Compton's has fallen by more - to 11.5 percent last month. 

Black credits larger companies doing business in Compton for hiring residents, citing the retailers and eateries at the Gateway Towne Center as prime examples. "They don't only wish to develop businesses here, they also want to include the community," she says.

More job opportunities are coming, as developer Trammell Crow breaks ground next month on the Brickyard Light Industrial Project, which will include a one-million square foot warehouse distribution facility. The developer estimates the project will create up to 1,000 jobs.   

William Yu, economist with the UCLA Anderson Forecast acknowledges Compton has shared in the same recovery that Los Angeles County and California have experienced. But he says that if Compton's going to keep up, it will need to address a problem of "human capital" that he says is common in southern Los Angeles. 

"In the 21st century, we need a higher educated workforce to work in high skilled jobs," Yu says. "Low-skilled jobs are mostly outsourced to other countries or automated by computer and robots. We have to focus on education and human capital."

Current Census data show Compton's population is 68 percent Latino, and 32% black, with a quarter living below the poverty line.

Black, who represents the Compton Business Chamber of Commerce, agrees that worker education is an obstacle, but she said she believes that as more development comes, workers will pursue training opportunities.  She says expanding operations at the nearby Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach will also create more opportunities for worker and business development.  

Lately, Black says owners of Compton small businesses that closed during the recession are trying to get in on the "renaissance." Hair salons that had been open thirty years before but had to close have begun remodeling.

"[The owners] are coming back and saying, 'you know what?: I'm going to fix this place up, and I'm going to re-open'" says Black.