SLO County's economy at 'forefront of growth,' experts say

tstrickland@thetribunenews.comJune 7, 2013 

Since 2012, San Luis Obispo County economy has more jobs, a stronger real estate market and a sharp increase in taxable sales — all of which are among the indicators that moved the region into the “forefront of growth,” according to the 2013 Central Coast Economic Forecast Mid-Year Update.

Similar post-recession patterns have trickled down from the recovering state and national economies, said Christopher Thornberg, founding principal of Beacon Economics, the Southern California company that presented Thursday's forecast in Atascadero.

“The financial markets have been waiting for the last shoe to drop, that next boogeyman around the corner,” Thornberg said. “But they’re finally realizing that things are actually getting better.”

In April, the county had 103,100 total non-agricultural jobs, an increase of 2.6 percent — or 2,680 jobs — from April 2012.

“There was a very solid bounce in numbers starting in 2012,” Thornberg said.

In that period, the county’s largest growing industries were arts and entertainment jobs at 21.4 percent; professional/business services jobs at 14.2 percent; and real estate jobs at 11.8 percent, according to the data. Meanwhile, declines were seen in whole trade jobs, which were down 3.7 percent; non-durable manufacturing jobs, down 3.0 percent; and a category listed as “other services,” down 2.1 percent.

Median home prices were on the rise, year-over-year, in the first quarter of 2013. The largest gains were seen in Grover Beach, followed by San Luis Obispo and Atascadero, according to the data.

Existing home sales also swelled in the same period for the cities of Atascadero, Grover Beach and Paso Robles. The cities of Arroyo Grande and San Luis Obispo, however, saw existing home sales decline by 13.7 percent and 4.2 percent, respectively.

The South County led the area’s growth in year-over-year taxable sales from the fourth quarter of 2012 compared to 2011. In that time period, Arroyo Grande saw a 5.5 percent increase while Grover Beach saw 5.4 percent growth. Atascadero, meanwhile, saw a 6.1 percent decline in taxable sales, according to the data.

The mid-year update was hosted by the Atascadero and Paso Robles chambers of commerce and organized by The Central Coast Economic Forecast Project, which is led by a volunteer board of directors.

The next Central Coast Economic Forecast is planned for Nov. 22 at the Alex Madonna Expo Center, where data from a new research project looking into the impacts of local nonprofit organizations will be presented.

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