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The local economy sustained a second sharp monthly drop in September, according to the USD index of leading economic indicators published by Alan Gin. It was the 17th drop in 18 months, Gin reported yesterday.

The big players on the negative side: building permits down (lowest monthly total since Feb. 2003), unemployment insurance claims up and consumer confidence and help wanted ads down. A couple of small bright spots: slight increases in local stock prices and in the outlook for the national economy.

Gin continues to forecast weakness in the local economy through the first half of 2008 at least. He predicts some short-term pain due to the fires that could result in a bit of a boost as rebuilding heats up in 2008.

On that note, local economist Kelly Cunningham released an estimate Tuesday on the economic impact of the fires. Cunningham is the chief economist for the San Diego Institute for Policy Research, the think tank founded by potential mayoral candidate Steve Francis.

Cunningham estimates the economic costs of the October 2007 fires to the county to exceed $2 billion. The estimate breaks down as follows:

Homes: $500,000,000
Furnishings, cars, clothing, food: $400,000,000

Other structures (buildings, transmission lines, water delivery systems, etc.): $200,000,000
Economic business productivity: $893,000,000
Overtime fire/police/materials: $100,000,000
TOTAL: $2,093,000,000

These two economists joined host Tom Fudge to discuss the economy on KPBS’s These Days show this morning. You can listen to them expound on these reports here.

KELLY BENNETT

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