SAN FRANCISCO -- An unusual combination of national recession, defense cutbacks, problems in the real estate and construction industries, and regional business changes have caused Southern California's worst economic climate in decades, according to a Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco economist.

Carolyn Sherwood-Call, a regional economist writing in today's issue of the bank's Weekly Letter, said six countries -- Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, and Ventura -- have lost 520,000 jobs, or 7% of the total when employment peaked in March 1990.

"That means that Southern California, which provides 57% of the state's jobs, accounts for fully 87% of the state's job losses during this downturn," Ms. Sherwood-Call said.

Los Angeles County lost 369,000 jobs, or 8.6% of its employment, while Orange County lost 87,000, or 7.1%.

Job losses in the other southern counties ranged from 2.1% in Riverside-San Bernardino to 4.2% in San Diego.

"L.A.'s greater share of the job losses appears to result from its longer-term sluggishness in job growth relative to its neighboring countries," said Ms. Sherwood-Call.

The employment losses, fueled by the general economic slowdown, show "that the current downturn is hitting the entire Southern California area extremely hard," and the regional deterioration "has been much greater during the current cycle than it was during the early 1980s, even though the U.S. recession has been milder," Ms. Sherwood-Call wrote.

"If this recession had the same impact on Southern California's employment as earlier recessions, job losses would have been less than 65,000 - a much smaller decline than has actually occurred," the economist said.

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