Andrew Edwards, Staff Writer
Created: 09/22/2011 02:42:50 PM PDT

ONTARIO – The Inland Empire and the rest of the state may not return to pre-recession employment levels until as many as six years pass, economists said in a new forecast predicting minimal short-term growth as the state and region continue to wrestle with long-term hardships.

“We’re basically forecasting that it’s not until 2016, 2017 that the Inland Empire returns to the level of economic activity we had in 2006,” Claremont McKenna College economist Marc Weidenmier said. “This is basically a decade-long recovery.”

Weidenmier delivered his presentation on Thursday at a forecasting event before an audience of business and political leaders who gathered at Citizen’s Business Bank Arena.

The Claremont McKenna professor represented his college’s side of the CMC-UCLA Inland Empire Forecast, a report that this year contained predictions for a stalled economy.

The new report is a localized follow-up to the UCLA Anderson quarterly forecast, which was released earlier this week. UCLA analysts expect California unemployment to hover around 12 percent next year, about the level where joblessness is now.

In San Bernardino and Riverside counties, the jobless rate will remain in double-digit percentages until 2015, Weidenmier said.

Overall, the economists forecast national, short-term economic growth to be only about 1 percent, on an annualized basis. But they do not expect inland Southern California nor the rest of the United States to sink into a second recession.

Consumer spending, which accounts for 70 percent of U.S. economic activity, has slowed as recession-shocked consumers increase savings. What money people do spend has been diverted from consumer goods to increasingly expensive food and gasoline.

But UCLA economist Jerry Nicklesburg said a “double dip” recession is unlikely since current data does not indicate contraction within the construction or manufacturing fields, although employers within those industries are also not in a position to rehire millions who were laid of during the Great Recession.

The displacement of those millions of construction and manufacturing workers is among the most serious of the state’s problems.

To read entire story, click here.