Office Hours

Full economic recovery still years off

The economic recovery is on the horizon, but it will take four years or longer to erase the stain of the recession, an economist and a marketing professional told business and community leaders in Spokane this morning.

“I’m reasonably, vaguely optimistic” the Inland Northwest is headed into a recovery, said Grant Forsyth, professor of economics at Eastern Washington University.

This will be a modest year of employment growth, Forsyth predicted. The unemployment rate in the Spokane area will remain around 9 percent through 2010, he said.

The region also can expect little wage growth this year, he told a gathering hosted by Greater Spokane Incorporated at The Davenport Hotel.

Forsyth said the economy here is turning around, but he estimated it will take until summer 2013 to reach the employment peak seen in March 2008.

He also predicts consumer spending will continue to be conservative through the end of this year. “I think consumers will be much more restrained.”

Shaun O’L. Higgins, director of sales and marketing for The Spokesman-Review, shared a similar assessment of the pace of recovery.

“I think we found the path out of the woods, but it will be a slow, uphill walk to reach the previous heights,” Higgins told the audience.

While the Spokane area continues to struggle with job growth, the community benefits from lower job loss rates than the state or nation, as well as good wages, home value retention and population growth, Higgins said.

He also touted new home sales numbers coming out today: Residential sales in the first quarter are up 23 percent over the first quarter of 2009, the Spokane Association of Realtors reports.

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Scott Maben
Scott Maben is a Deputy City Editor who covers North Idaho news.

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