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By   /   Thursday, August 21st, 2008  /   Comments Off on

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A few months from now, Sung Won Sohn will be handing out grades to students as the newly named Martin V. Smith professor of economics at California State University, Channel Islands.

But the straight-talking former Wells Fargo economist, and former bank president, wasn’t afraid to give California’s economy a C-minus at best during a chat in his office at the Ventura County campus.

The Golden State’s 7.3 percent unemployment rate reflects a deep slump in housing, a slowdown in Pacific trade and the lingering effects of the credit crunch, Sohn told me.

“California is more volatile. That means we accelerate faster in boom times and go down faster when the economy slumps,” he said, adding that California is likely to underperform the U.S. economy for some time.

Sohn sees a slightly more favorable picture for the Central Coast where strength in agriculture, tourism and specialized manufacturing may offset some of the evident weaknesses in the California economy.

But he offered a stern warning that with the slowdown contagion spreading to Asia and Europe, a quick turnaround for the U.S. economy probably is not in the cards.

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