Swine flu could impact California's economic recovery

The last thing California's weak economy needed was a swine flu outbreak flaring up in Mexico.

Although substantial harm seemed unlikely Monday, the outbreak could do some economic damage to California agriculture, tourism and international trade.

The economic and societal ties between California and Mexico are obvious. Some 400,000 Mexican Americans live in greater Sacramento. At least 1,000 people travel each day from Mexico to Sacramento, Fresno and San Francisco combined, according to the Customs and Border Protection Agency.

Much of California farm labor comes from Mexico, and the state's farmers and ranchers are worried about a shortage of labor with the main harvest season set to begin in a few weeks. Pork producers fretted about consumers running scared.

Tour operators worried that fears about the flu – intensified by official travel warnings by the United States and other governments – could halt the beginnings of a turnaround in the tourism industry.

Mexico is likely to get bruised the most. But the economic pain could spread to California, which counts Mexico as one of its largest trading partners.

If the outbreak gets much worse, "this is not good news for the flow of goods and people," said Jock O'Connell, an international trade consultant with the University of California Center Sacramento, a UC affiliate.

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