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Chapman forecast calls for slow national growth, more pain in Inland Empire

January 26, 2010 |  4:05 pm

The coming year will see a slow recovery nationally and in parts of California, according to a forecast released today by the A. Gary Anderson Center for Economic Research at Chapman University.

Economists at Chapman predict that growth in the gross domestic product will be positive in 2010, at 2.4%, after falling 2.8% in 2009. They credit the government stimulus package as helping that growth. Positive signs in residential construction also indicate that more homes might be built in the near future.

"We believe housing prices bottomed out in the first quarter of this year and a slow recovery is under way," the economists said in a release.

The picture is less rosy in the Inland Empire, which the university focused on in this forecast. Nonresidential construction is still bottoming out, economists say, as vacancy rates reach historic highs for office, industrial and retail space. Permits for nonresidential construction are now valued at $600 million, and economists predict that value will fall to $465 million in 2010. In 2008, that value was $1.8 billion.

Total construction spending will continue to decline in 2010, as will payroll employment. Chapman economists predict that the Inland Empire will lose an additional 11,000 jobs in 2010, with job growth not beginning until the fourth quarter. The region lost 70,000 jobs in 2009.

There are a few positive signs, even in the beleaguered Inland Empire. Residential housing construction is improving, and economists expect resale single-family housing prices to grow 3.5% in 2010. Total taxable sales will grow to $51.8 billion in 2010, up 1.9% from 2009.

-- Alana Semuels

Photo: Business probably will remain slow in the Inland Empire this year. Credit: Don Bartletti/Los Angeles