Economist predicts business turnaround locally this year

More than 270 Glendale business owners and representatives who were wondering when the economy will pick up again came out on Thursday to hear a local economist forecast cautious optimism for the new year.

Robert Kleinhenz, chief economist with the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp., got a room full of hands in the air when he asked attendees if they still felt like they were in a recession during this year’s Business Outlook event sponsored by the Glendale Chamber of Commerce at the Hilton Glendale.

“In Southern California, we’re still being affected by (factors) connected to the recession — (which) the numbers say is already over,” he said.

Kleinhenz said 2013 should be the year when businesses finally start to feel the economy turning around.

Still, the country isn’t seeing the sort of strong growth in its Gross Domestic Product that it would need to get the unemployment rate down to a healthy 6%, Kleinhenz said, adding that California is one of the states still lagging, with unemployment sitting at 9.8%.

“We’ve taken our fair share of lumps in the California economy,” Kleinhenz said.

Compared to San Francisco and San Jose, which are adding jobs at about 3% a month, the Los Angeles area is struggling at 1.6%.

Kleinhenz said that Glendale has some advantages over the rest of the region because 85% of the city’s residents graduated from high school and 39% have a bachelor’s degree or higher.

In Los Angeles County, 76% of residents are high school graduates and 29% have college degrees.

Scott Ackerley, owner of Glen Oaks Escrow, said he was glad to hear Kleinhenz’s projections — not just for Glendale, but for L.A. as a whole — because the real estate and labor markets are interconnected throughout the region.

Ackerley said he thought Kleinhenz was on the money when he said the economy is turning around.

“It’s definitely improving,” he said. “Compared to that 2% figure [for GDP growth], we’re expecting more like 3 to 5% in our sector locally.”

Attendance at this year’s event was higher than in years past, but not as high as last year, when Glendale City Manager Scott Ochoa spoke, according to Tina Decker, the chamber’s events coordinator.

Follow Daniel Siegal on Google+ and on Twitter: @Daniel_Siegal.


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