After an unexpectedly slow recovery in 2011, economists are pinning their hopes on 2012.
That was the word from Bill Watkins and Mark Schniepp, two tri-county-based economists who gave separate outlooks for the U.S. and Ventura County economies at a Feb. 3 event at California Lutheran University.
“2011 really didn’t shape out to be the turnaround year that we hoped it would be,” Schniepp said.
Schniepp, who runs the Santa Barbara-based California Economic Forecast, said his is a “slightly more auspicious” outlook than Watkins.’ The most positive sign, he said, is that U.S. retail sales have recovered to about pre-recession levels.
“Factories are producing more, the stock market is rallying, and autos are selling,” Schniepp said. And job growth, though slow, is positive. According to the latest reports from the federal government, the U.S. created 250,000 new jobs in January.
California has its bright spots too, Schniepp said, including a state-wide boom in tech and tourism that Ventura County is benefiting from. But the weak housing market and a rising population of 20-somethings looking for jobs is putting a strain on the state and on Ventura County.
According to data compiled by the California Economic Forecast, Ventura County created 4,603 private-sector jobs in 2011, the most in five years. Much of that was dampened by a loss in public-sector employment.
Watkins, the chief forecaster at the CLU-based Center for Economic Research and Forecasting, said that the nation’s recovery has largely happened on Wall Street — not at the small-business level.
“Small businesses aren’t participating in this recovery thus far,” he said. The stock market has rallied and retail sales are up, he said, but smaller companies are still facing a credit crunch, and manufacturing and engineering firms face stiff regulations in California that cause them to look elsewhere.
Over the last 15 years, California has seen net migration to states with lower regulations, more business opportunities and better job markets, he said.