Conerly: Higher highs and lower lows in economic forecast

Regional economist Bill Conerly gave his outlook on the local and national economy during a Feb. 10 speech to Bellingham/Whatcom...

Get used to the ups and downs in the economy. That was part of the message from regional economist Bill Conerly, who spoke Feb. 10 at an event hosted by the Bellingham/Whatcom Chamber of Commerce & Industry.

In his speech, Conerly looked at trends in the local economy and how those trends are affected by the national economy and even the global economy. And with the recession now over, he speculated about what to expect in the coming years.

“I think the world will be more cyclical in the next 10 years,” Conerly said. “The booms will be boomier and the busts will be bustier and its all happening closer together.”

In fact, the last 25 years of relative economic stability were an anomaly that economists call “The Great Moderation,” Conerly said. There were only two recessions during that time — and they were relatively mild — compared to five recessions in the 25-year period before that.

Still, the economy is expected to grow in the next two years, Conerly said. Retail sales are increasing, as is the average income, and businesses are starting to spend money on new equipment to improve operational efficiency.

“Businesses now aren’t so much spending to expand their capacity — they’re trying to reduce costs,” Conerly said.

Two of the normal drivers of the economy, population growth and housing, are far from recovering, though. Many areas of the country, including Whatcom County, aren’t seeing as many new residents and still have a glut of available housing stock, he said.

On the bright side, Whatcom County does seem to be faring better than many other communities and continues to attract new residents.

“This population growth here is going to be a boon to your community and make it easier on startup businesses,” Conerly said.

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