Business and Political Elite Gather for Economic Forecast by UC Riverside School of Business

Annual event draws hundreds from Inland region

Christopher Thornberg, director of the Center for Economic Forecasting and Development at the UCR School of Business, speaks at the annual event.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. ( — Hundreds of people gathered Wednesday at the Riverside Convention Center for the eighth-annual Inland Empire Economic Forecast Conference.

Organized by the School of Business at the University of California, Riverside, the event hosted political and business leaders who discussed the trajectories for economic growth in the Inland Empire, California, and the country. The economic forecast was led by Christopher Thornberg, director of the Center for Economic Forecasting and Development at the UCR School of Business and one of the authors of the report.

“It is our mission to be a catalyst for economic growth and prosperity for our region,” said Yunzeng Wang, dean of the School of Business. “We want to make sure our resources and expertise are accessible to the community.”

UCR Chancellor Kim A. Wilcox also attended the conference, telling the more than 350 attendees that the university’s economic forecast is “wrapped around an intent and desire to shape the future.”

“Every marker is up at the university … We’ve been doers. We’ve been active,” Wilcox added.

The conference included a keynote address by California Speaker of the Assembly Anthony Rendon, D-Lakewood, a UCR alumnus who graduated with a doctorate in 2000. He discussed the need to look at transportation and housing, especially as costs rise in the state.

Thornberg focused his attention on what he called a “tight labor market,” in which the shortage of workers will limit employment, as well as business profits and growth. He discussed how it may be necessary to “densify” the Inland Empire in order to support continued job growth, especially in high-paying professions.

“The Inland Empire is one of the most dynamic regions,” Thornberg said. “To truly get to the next step and be on its own, you have to start densifying — creating these dense zones that will attract high-end businesses.”

Here are some key findings from the latest report:

  • The Inland Empire’s job growth is forecast to hold steady over the next couple of years and then taper to between 2 percent and 2.5 percent range as the supply of available labor diminishes.
  • After years of stagnation, the tightening labor market has finally given way to wage increases. For the Inland Empire, average annual wages grew 6.5 percent from the first quarter of 2016 to the first quarter of 2017.
  • One of the best signs in the national economy has been the solid recovery in business spending. U.S. consumers, on the other hand, are expected to rebalance through the rest of 2017 after spending paced ahead of income in recent years. The nation’s consumer savings rate has dropped below 4 percent of disposable income for the first time since before the Great Recession.
  • California and its regions should experience continued growth in economic activity and jobs throughout 2017 and 2018. Most of the job gains will occur in health care, leisure and hospitality, and construction.
  • Home prices in the Inland Empire are forecast to appreciate in the 5 percent-to-6 percent range over the next two years, driven by tight supply and a renter population that is consuming a greater share of single-family dwellings.

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