County's economic outlook bleak

A historic fall in San Diego's leading economic indicators -- including building permits, unemployment and wants ads --continued in January, leading to a "bleak'' outlook for the months ahead, a University of San Diego professor said today.

The index compiled by Alan Gin of the USD School of Business Administration fell by 2 percent last month, the fourth month in a row the indicators have dropped by that amount or more.

Gin said the last four months have been the worst since he began the index in 1991, and the worst he's seen in data going back to 1977.

The number of building permits issued for single-family residences in January was 82, the first monthly total ever below 100, the professor said.

There were only six approved multi-unit structures.

Initial claims for unemployment insurance hit 30,000 in the county in January for the first time ever. He said that compares to 10,000 monthly initial claims when the economy was booming.

Help wanted advertising fell for the 29th straight month, Gin said.

The professor said local consumer confidence continues to sink, and reduced expenditures threaten to deepen the county's economic troubles.

"The outlook for the local economy remains bleak at this point,'' Gin said. "The length and depth of the decline in the USD Index suggests that San Diego's economy may remain weak through the end of 2009. There is no sign of any imminent turnaround at this point.''

Gin could only point to two positive factors in the January index. One is that stock prices for local companies rebounded by 1.23 percent.

The other is that the national index of leading economic indicators has climbed for two months in a row. He cautioned that economists generally wait for three months before pointing to a trend.

   
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