The Capital Region’s economic forecast remains solid despite a national recession, but that could change by mid-February, economist Loren Scott told area business leaders today at an LSU Executive Education workshop. Depending on fourth-quarter factors, including GDP, unemployment and oil prices, Scott says the Capital Region could lose its projected 2,400-job growth this year. “But it looks like at this point Baton Rouge may get through this unscathed,” he says. The area economy is being powered by more than $6 billion in new construction.
Nationally, the outlook remains gloomy with housing starts projected at 1.3 million by 2010, well below the past 1.5 million yearly average at the height of the real estate boom. States like California, Florida and Nevada, where housing bubbles burst, are slipping deeper into debt from plummeting home values. Scott forecasts a mid-2009 turnaround in the national economy followed by a slow recovery into 2010. But he cautions that Wall Street remains volatile and watchful of President-elect Barack Obama. Markets are looking to see if Obama will fulfill campaign promises on anti-free trade, increasing the minimum wage, a national health insurance plan, windfall profits tax on oil companies, expanded family leave or an extreme “pro-green” stance, which Scott called “job growth killers.”—Anna Thibodeaux