2012-04-05 / Editorials
We see the glass half full
I t’s not time to break out the balloons and party favors just yet. The recession, while clearly approaching its midnight hour, isn’t quite over. But at least the local economists are no longer seeing the glass half empty. They see it as half full.
Last week, two of the top forecasters in the state painted a semioptimistic view of the eastern Ventura County, western Los Angeles County economy at a breakfast attended by local business leaders and real estate experts at Cal Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks.
Mark Schniepp, director of the California Economic Forecast in Santa Barbara, told guests the local labor market is recovering, “but won’t impress” in the year ahead. Ventura County’s top employers are Amgen, Oxnard Union School District, Ventura Unified School District, Harbor Freight, Ventura County Community College District and WellPoint. All have downsized. All have impacted the county’s housing market beyond belief.
The slump in housing, without a doubt, has prolonged the recession. (Nearly half the job loss in Ventura County was real estate related, Schniepp said.) But while new home construction remains at “depression level lows,” existing home sales have hit their highest level in two years, thanks to private sector job creation that has been “pretty stellar” over the past quarter. Distressed home sales as a percentage of all home sales have dropped. The county, in fact, is seeing its lowest foreclosure level in the past four years. This is one low point we can be thankful for.
Bill Watkins, director of the Cal Lutheran Center for Economic Research and Forecasting, says the U.S. as a whole won’t see appreciable job growth until 2014. That’s reasonable. The Silicon Valley and San Diego notwithstanding, the state’s job growth remains weak. But in Ventura County, the unemployment rate has dipped below 10 percent as jobs in the technical and scientific services rebound. Good luck getting that 20-something out of your house and into one of their own, however. The lack of jobs for young grads is keeping them from buying homes like they did in the past.
Watkins encourages legal immigration as a way to boost housing sales.
In a nutshell, the only way for us to kick the recession once and for all is to create growth and “outgrow the problem,” Watkins says. “We can improve the forecast. It is possible.”
At least the economy’s a lot better than at this time last year. That much we know for sure. Nothing lasts forever, not even the mother of all recessions.