FORECAST: The slowdown is largely `in line’ with trends in the economy as a whole, analyst says. By Muhammed El-Hasan Staff Writer AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREGame Center: Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, 10 a.m. Employment growth in the South Bay will slow down this year and next as the construction and manufacturing industries shed jobs and international trade sees slower growth, according to an economic forecast to be released Wednesday. However, the South Bay’s expected job growth – 0.9 percent this year and 0.7 percent in 2008 – is “about in line with what’s going on out there in the overall economy,” according to the study’s author, Jack Kyser, chief economist of the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp. Kyser will discuss the study and general South Bay economic issues Wednesday at the South Bay Economic Forecast Conference at the Torrance Marriott. The event is sponsored by the Torrance-based South Bay Economic Development Partnership. In 2006, the South Bay’s annual job growth was 1.4 percent, more than double the forecast growth rate for 2008. Total South Bay employment this year is estimated at 490,542, with next year’s job forecast at 494,030, the study says. Manufacturing, the region’s second-largest employment sector, will see a drop in jobs by 0.8 percent this year and 0.6 percent next year, the study says. Still, the losses in manufacturing are not as steep as in 2002, when the sector lost 5.4 percent of jobs. And the South Bay’s manufacturing sector has “held up better” than the overall sector in Los Angeles County, the study says. The difference is because of the South Bay’s “unparalleled” aerospace and high-technology sector, the study says. Northrop Grumman Corp., Raytheon Co., Boeing Co. and numerous smaller contractors form the South Bay’s vibrant aerospace sector. At many of these firms, competition for skilled employees is fierce. Ace Clearwater Enterprises, a Torrance-area maker of parts for military and commercial aircraft, spends nearly $4,000 a month to advertise for job openings, Vice President Gary Johnson said. “We can’t add them fast enough,” Johnson said. “We have right now at least eight positions unfilled. If we could hire 30 people and start a night shift; we have the work for it.” Johnson added that the weak dollar has increased opportunities from foreign customers. “We’re seeing a lot of opportunities from abroad, like from Europe,” Johnson said. The construction sector, hit hard by the real estate slump, will experience a 4 percent drop in jobs this year and a 2.7 percent drop next year, according to the forecast. Other sectors to see job losses during the forecast’s two-year time frame include transportation and utilities, information, financial activities and public administration. “If you talk to businesses, they will tell you it’s sort of a different scene than it was a year ago,” Kyser said. “A year ago, business was strong, they were willing to hire. But (now) they’re being a little bit more cautious, and they don’t want to get stuck with staff they have to lay off. ? There’s just an air of caution out there.” In addition, the South Bay will see more moderate growth for the international trade sector, which feeds off the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach as well as LAX. This reflects slower growth in the U.S. economy and “efforts by U.S. business to bring their inventories into line,” the study says. Concern that the ports have reached capacity also may be driving away ships filled with foreign goods, Kyser said. “There’s a lot of people wondering if maybe the ports have sort of peaked and we’re going to start seeing slower growth in the future because it’s getting more expensive to send goods through the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach,” Kyser said. “You’ve got yellow lights flashing on international trade because of the cost issue.” Kyser’s study also cites three so-called “boutique” industry sectors that boost the local job market – the auto industry, a small biomedical sector and refineries. Torrance is home to Toyota’s U.S. sales and marketing headquarters and Honda’s North American headquarters. “The South Bay is somewhat lucky in that it has its boutique industries like auto, biomedical and petroleum refineries,” Kyser said. “So you have a more diverse industry base than, say, West Los Angeles.” [email protected] total160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!