Economist: Lagging jobs, investment hinder Sonoma County economy

The North Bay's economy is slowly recovering, but two key elements still are missing, a Sonoma State University economist told business and government leaders Thursday.

Job growth and business investment are needed before the economy truly bounces back, said Robert Eyler, who heads the university's Center for Regional Economic Analysis.

"There's still a lot of uncertainty out there," he said. "That's what's keeping us from growing."

The recession likely ended in the North Bay a year ago, Eyler said, but the recovery has been slow.

Don't expect the labor market to improve before mid-year, Eyler said Thursday at the annual Economic Outlook Conference at the Sheraton Sonoma County hotel in Petaluma. And job growth could remain sluggish if the private and public sectors don't act to spur hiring.

Meanwhile, large banks are sitting on cash that could be used to jump-start the economy, he said. Banks are waiting for the housing market to recover.

"We need to get that money moving," Eyler said.

He pointed to some encouraging signs.

Personal income, wages and salaries all have been rising in California since the state's economy struck bottom in 2009, Eyler said.

The North Bay's leading indicators — including real estate defaults, building permits, new jobless claims, farm prices and help-wanted ads — were positive last year.

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