Like the rest of California, San Luis Obispo County is winding very slowly to a full economic recovery, forecasters at the Central Coast Economic Forecast said Nov. 5.
The county’s unemployment rate currently hovers around 10 percent, and will likely stay above 6 percent until sometime in 2015, economists from the forecasting group Beacon Economics said.
That tempered recovery will be spurred along by several key industry clusters that have maintained strong growth even through the recession. Those include wholesale trade, professional and financial services, and most, acutely, manufacturing and construction.
The county’s manufacturing industry, which until recently had been in a long-term decline that started around 1975, recently shifted to positive growth, said Beacon economist Brad Kemp.
“That’s an incredibly positive trend,” he said. “It’s a significant trend and one that we have to watch over the next year.”
San Luis Obispo County’s retail, health and education and leisure and hospitality industries have all contracted over the past several years, with its hotel room and occupancy rates lagging those of Santa Barbara and Monterey counties. Taxable retail sales aren’t expected to see strong growth until 2012.
Forecasters did promise a few silver linings. The chances of a double-dip recession have faded, said Chris Thornberg, the chief economist at Beacon.
And San Luis Obispo County, which outgrew neighboring Monterey and Santa Barbara counties prior to the downturn, continues to see strong prospects. “We haven’t lost any fundamentals,” Kemp said.
The Nov. 5 event at the Embassy Suites Hotel San Luis Obispo was the Central Coast Economic Forecast’s first since it split off from the UC Santa Barbara Economic Forecast Project. The UCSB forecast used to provide forecasts for the entire Tri-Counties but announced earlier this year that it will focus on Santa Barbara County.