The Los Angeles Economy

Money-making businesses and industries in Los Angeles

Los Angeles is vast. In fact, its gross regional economy is the third biggest in the world, after greater Tokyo and greater New York. If it were its own country, LA would have the 15th largest economy in the world.

There is one industry most closely associated with Los Angeles: the entertainment industry. In LA, although it is no longer the only game in town, it is still generally abbreviated to “the industry”. Outside of LA, it is simply referred to as “Hollywood”, where the studio business began a century ago. The industry is really an umbrella term for a number of sub-industries, all related: television, cable, motion pictures, internet applications and video games. A handlful of powerful conglomerates have consolidated many of the best known companies in the entertainment industry under a few roofs: Time-Warner, Disney, Viacom, Fox. But “independents” still compete and new creative challengers step up into the arena every day.

Although it is not generally associated in the public mind with the swaying palms and sun-kissed beach culture of Southern California, the defense/aerospace sector has also long been an important component of the local economy. Boeing, Northrop and Grumman (now merged) have major operations in LA, as does NASA, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (in Pasadena) and all collaborate with launch facilities at Edwards and Vandenburg Air Force Bases north of the city. The first space shuttle was built in LA, and is returning to a new home in a wing of the Natural History Museum in a few years.

People are still surprised to see oil pumps, scattered throughout the Los Angeles landscape, and the handful of remaining oil drilling platforms standing sentry off the coast - but Southern California has been an active oil production zone for much of the past century, and many energy-related companies are based in LA, including Occidental Petroleum and ARCO.

Healthcare and medical research are also important economic sectors in LA. The University of Southern California (USC) and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) have medical schools and operate major medical centers, alongside Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and Kaiser Permanente, Howard Hughes Medical and others.

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