Economic forecast gloomy

With job losses in San Diego County expected to mount, the outlook for the local economy remains weak for at least the first half of the year, a University of San Diego economist reported Thursday.

The Index of Leading Economic Indicators for San Diego County fell 2.1 percent in December, according to Alan Gin, who compiles the index for USD’s Burnham-Moores Center for Real Estate.

The decline was led by huge drops in building permits, consumer confidence and help-wanted advertising and an increase in the number of initial claims for unemployment insurance, according to Gin’s index.

Local stock prices were also down moderately, while the outlook for the national economy edged upward, according to the index.

The USD index has fallen in 32 of the last 33 months, with the three largest drops ever in the past three months.

According to the index, job losses in real estate, credit and construction are expected to expand to other sectors of the economy, notably in retail, which suffered a weak holiday buying season.