Dan Walters

By Dan Walters
dwalters@sacbee.com
Published: Sunday, Apr. 8, 2012 – 12:00 am | Page 3A

Jerry Nickelsburg and Bill Watkins are two university economists with doctorates who specialize in charting and forecasting California’s $2 trillion economy.

That’s just about all they have in common.

Simultaneously, Nickelsburg and Watkins issued analyses last month of California’s prospects for recovery from its historically deep recession.

Nickelsburg, who works at UCLA’s Anderson Forecast, forecast “continued, slow steady gains in employment through 2012″ with unemployment dropping into single digits in late 2013.

Watkins, who runs a graduate economics program at California Lutheran University, a short drive up the coast from UCLA, contended that “California’s economic future is lackluster at best” and that most of the state “will continue to suffer something that feels very much like a continued recession.”

If two highly qualified professional economists cannot agree where California’s economy is headed, how can the rest of us – not to mention those we elect to political office – view the future with any degree of certainty? We can’t, as a recent poll conducted by the University of Southern California and the Los Angeles Times indicates.

The voter poll found that 39 percent believe the state’s economy has bottomed out and is beginning to improve, 24 percent believe it’s hit bottom but is not yet improving, and 33 percent agree that it hasn’t reached the bottom yet and will still get worse.

In part, the conflicts among economists and voters may reflect the disparities within the state. As Watkins points out, the Bay Area and San Diego are showing the definite signs of economic life that other regions are not.

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