California's long economic slide continues to worsen, but an end to the state's severe recession may be less than a year away, according to UCLA's quarterly economic forecast released Wednesday.
In the next few months, additional layoffs in the hard-hit aerospace industry will continue to batter the economy, the report says, but lower interest rates and a modest rebound in the construction business should help put an end to the recession by next summer.
"It's sort of hard to imagine, but things are going to get worse before they get better," said Larry J. Kimbell, director of the UCLA Business Forecasting Project.
Kimbell said layoffs in the state's aerospace industry are continuing unabated because of a drop-off in demand for commercial airplanes along with the long-running cutbacks caused by the drop in defense spending. Since many of these jobs pay well, retail sales should continue to drop and drag the economy down further.
"No other industry is doing well enough to step in and replace the engine (the economy) lost when aerospace went into a nose-dive," Kimbell said. "Couple that with the sluggishness in the construction business and it looks like a bleak winter."
Wednesday's report is similar to the forecast the UCLA group released three months ago.
The quarterly forecasts are closely watched in California's business community and have been criticized in the past for being too negative in their outlook at the time they were issued.
In fact, as events later played out, the forecasts failed to predict how severe California's downturn would actually be, but they were more accurate than many other, more optimistic forecasts.
On the national level, Kimbell said that while the deficit-reduction package Congress passed last month should provide long-term benefits, it will be "a short-term drag" on expansion by raising taxes for some Americans.
On the bright side, Kimbell noted, corporate profits are rising. By the middle of next year, many employers will no longer be able to continue operating with their low staffing levels and some will have to start hiring new workers.
For the national economy as a whole, the UCLA group said it has grown slightly more optimistic than it was a few months ago and revised its estimate of national economic growth this year to 2.8% from an earlier projection of 2.5%.
The researchers said the upward revision is based on stronger than expected spending for durable goods, the rebound in corporate profits and signs that inflation will remain in check over the next several months.