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Sonoma County economy to continue its slow growth in 2012

Despite some encouraging trends, the economic recovery will progress at a painfully slow pace this year, a UCLA economist told Sonoma County business leaders Friday.

"We're not going to get a full recovery," said Jerry Nickelsburg, senior economist with UCLA's Anderson Forecast. "We're still going to have slow growth and economic stress."

Nickelsburg spoke at Sonoma County's annual State of the County conference at the DoubleTree Hotel in Rohnert Park.

Data show the U.S. recession ended in 2009, but many of its effects linger on, he said. The economy is in a two-sided recovery, with some sectors improving while others languish, Nickelsburg said.

"There's a recovery and a non-recovery going on," he said.

Still, there's little chance of a double-dip recession, unless Europe's economic turmoil spreads to the United States, Nickelsburg said.

U.S. exports, auto sales and business investment are on the rise. But overall consumer demand, housing and employment are stuck in the doldrums, Nickelsburg said.

California payrolls should grow just 1.2 percent this year, followed by a 2 percent jump in 2013, he said. Statewide unemployment will average around 11.6 percent this year and fall to 10.5 percent in 2013.

Sonoma County reflects the mixed bag of economic trends, he said. While unemployment is lower than the state average, the county has a high rate of foreclosures and isn't adding jobs as fast as some other parts of California.

The county's wine industry stands to gain from the state's surge in exports, he said. Construction jobs will remain scarce, with multi-family projects returning but little demand for new single-family homes.


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