Los Angeles

Southland economist Christopher Thornberg says California’s economy is solid, with healthy gains in employment and the housing market. Thornberg spoke Friday at a Mid-Year Economic Forecast & Trends Breakfast in Los Angeles. (File Photo by David Crane/Los Angeles Daily News)

By Kevin Smith, San Gabriel Valley Tribune
Posted: 07/15/16 – 6:15 PM PDT |

The U.S. economy is in far better shape than many might think.

Economist Christopher Thornberg, a founding partner with Beacon Economics, conveyed that message Friday at a Mid-Year Economic Forecast & Trends Breakfast in downtown Los Angeles.

Sponsored by the Los Angeles Business Journal, the event also featured a panel of experts who addressed everything from housing and education to investing.

“For a guy who’s been studying the economy for as many years as I have, I don’t think I’ve ever been involved in a situation where every time you turn around there is somebody screaming ‘crisis,’ ” Thornberg said. “It seems to be how news operates these days.”

He cited ongoing concerns consumers and investors have about a financial bubble, wage stagnation, a global economic slowdown, a commodity glut, bad trade deals, housing costs, labor markets, the upcoming presidential election and panic over Brexit.

“When you align all of these crises end to end and you scratch away at them you start to realize pretty quickly there really is this hype — it’s not reality,” he said. “When you step back and look at the fundamentals you find a completely different picture.”

The housing market, both here and nationwide, has gained considerable traction, he said, and the employment sector has stabilized.

“The housing markets are moving forward even with tight credit, largely because more Americans have jobs and credit scores are starting to heal,” Thornberg said. “Basically, people are financially better off.”

Thornberg said the Golden State’s job picture is looking good.

“You could argue that just in the last four months we have finally erased the last residuals of the Great Recession out of the labor market,” he said. “And of course California, once written off as a disaster of business unfriendliness, is continuing to lead the nation in terms of economic growth.”

Figures show California added nearly 447,000 new jobs last year, more than Texas and Florida combined.

Los Angeles County is doing well overall, he said.

“Some sectors are sliding a little bit,” Thornberg acknowledged. “Manufacturing, a traditional core here, is not doing too well. Some of this is the cost of doing business in the state. Some of this is local forces and some is just that they’re moving east to the Inland Empire where they’ll get a little more elbow room.”

Thornberg said the region has seen healthy employment increases in health care (up 4.7 percent), hospitality (up 3.3 percent) and the motion picture industry (up 7.4 percent), among others.
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