UCLA economic forecast predicts slow improvement for Valley

FRESNO. California

Mike Prandini of the Building Industry Association is cautiously optimistic. "I think the prices have bottomed out. I've seen indicators in the resale market. Prices have increased. You're getting more than one offer on a home even though it may take a little longer to sell."

Prandini sees a slow climb in the housing market, as does the UCLA forecast, but the forecast predicts the Central Valley's climb will be slower than in the coastal areas. Not only in housing, but in unemployment. The jobless picture may remain bleak until 2012.

Fresno economist Joseph Penbera predicts the worst may be yet to come. It may not be a robust Christmas shopping season. "I think the next six to eight months from now until the second quarter are going to be really tough. I think retail will be lower, unemployment higher."

Among the casualties are more than 100 employees of Di-Pro. A Fresno plant that makes brake parts for trucks. They will be out of work after Thanksgiving, because the operation is moving to Mexico.

Even for those who have jobs, fear of unemployment is keeping those with jobs from spending. "Until people see the (un)employment rate is starting to come down, until people feel comfortable in making those long term commitments." Prandini said.

The good news about the state's economy is that exports are on the rise. Primarily agricultural exports from the Central Valley.

"I think the one bright light for the Valley is that agriculture is really starting to grow, because people want to eat." Penbera said.

Penbera thinks the UCLA survey is overly optimistic in predicting a turnaround by 2012. He thinks it may take a little longer until folks around here feel things are getting better.

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