(Source: Stephanie Hoops Ventura County Star, Calif. (MCT) — The clouds hanging over the local economy appear to be parting, and for the first time in years, the California Economic Forecast’s new outlook sounds optimistic.
In 2010, the Santa Barbara group’s director, Mark Schniepp, told local business leaders to “hang in there.”
In 2011, Schniepp said of the jobs situation, “This is going to be a social issue for many years to come in this state and nation.”
But on Thursday, Schniepp said, “Momentum is clearly picking up.”
Speaking at the 2012 Ventura County Real Estate & Economic Outlook conference in WestlakeVillage, Schniepp said the county’s economic recovery is building steam as California’s private sector creates jobs, port exports soar, home sales and prices rise, and the foreclosure crisis gets corrected.
Local job creation is occurring and will accelerate by 2013, Schniepp predicted.
Leading the recovery will be jobs in professional services, construction, and the health and education sectors. Schniepp expects the region to see 6,000 jobs created next year and another 6,750 in 2014 — if certain things occur, such as the end of downsizing in retail and construction sectors and some stability at the Navy base and in the public sector.
Also, mass layoffs must cease. Compared with the rest of the state, Ventura County has experienced an unusual number of workforce reductions, he said, and that has obviously hampered the region’s labor market recovery.
“We’re getting these unusual, extraordinary news stories about departures here or downsizing here,” he said. “You don’t see it in a lot of other places. In Ventura County, it’s a little bit extraordinary.”
Schniepp cited the hundreds of jobs that have left the county in recent years. They’ve been cut from school districts and government agencies, the semipublic State Compensation Insurance Fund, and at companies like Amgen, WellPoint, International Paper Co. and SolarWorld Industries America Inc.
Much of his new forecast focused on the labor market, which can’t rely on construction and manufacturing to lead the recovery like in other post-recessionary periods.
While construction work is expected to return early next year as demand for new homes rises to accommodate an expanding population, the amount of work won’t reach the peak level it hit before 2006.
As for manufacturing, much of that work is being outsourced to Asian countries, or machines have replaced the need for laborers.
The outlook also included a panel discussion on commercial real estate in Ventura County. Panelists described an abundance of vacant office space, and how it will take many years to fill. They also said that now is a good time to renegotiate a lease, because two years from now, lease rates will likely be 10 to 15 percent higher.
“I’m really hoping that after the election … things start to pick up,” said William Sloan, executive vice president of real estate with California United Bank. “Office is going to be the last sector to pick up.”
©2012 Ventura County Star (Camarillo, Calif.)
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