Arizona leaders hear mixed economic forecast

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PHOENIX (AP) -- An economic researcher said Wednesday that Arizona's economy is expanding at a slow but steady pace with population and employment growth rates that outpace most other states.

Arizona State University research professor Lee McPheters said the recent progress, however, remains slower than the state's long-term averages.

"While growth is slow compared to past recoveries, we are making good progress compared to other states," he said.

"Arizona jumped all the way up from the No. 49 state for job growth in 2010 to No. 8 in 2012 and No.7 by October of this year," McPheters said. "The long-term economic outlook here is positive."

McPheters expects employment growth to rise slightly to 2.4 percent next year and personal income to go from 4 percent this year to 5.4 percent in 2014.

About 1,000 people attended the annual forecast luncheon at the Phoenix Convention Center. It was sponsored by JPMorgan Chase and ASU's W.P. Carey School of Business.

Professor Lee Ohanian, associate director of ASU's Center for the Advanced Study in Economic Efficiency, told the crowd that the U.S. economy remains significantly down. He says employment and most components of gross domestic product are further below their normal levels than during the financial crisis.

"Severe recessions are typically followed by very rapid recoveries to the economy's long-term trend, but that isn't happening this time," Ohanian said.

Consultant Elliott Pollack discussed the housing market, saying Arizona is improving. Some estimates show the median single-family-home price is up by more than 20 percent since last year, he said.

New foreclosure notices are also down to pre-housing-crisis levels, and single-family building permits should be up about another 10 percent this year, on top of a 71-percent boost last year, he said.

"It's difficult not to be excited about the outlook for housing," Pollack said. "Home prices have been going up because relatively low inventory was available for sale."

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