The local economy sustained its fourth sharp drop in five months (and its 20th drop in 21 months) in December, University of San Diego’s Alan Gin reported today in his monthly index of leading economic indicators for San Diego County.

Sharp drops in consumer confidence and help wanted advertising led the downward influences, followed by lesser declines for local stock prices, the outlook for the national economy and the category that measures claims for unemployment insurance.

Building permits, however, were up moderately in the month, Gin reported.

Though the region has not suffered the typical characteristics of a recession, such as net loss of jobs or drops in gross regional product, the region’s economic activity has “slowed considerably,” he wrote. Jobs grew by only 10,700 in 2007 compared to 17,800 in 2006, and unemployment is growing.

I offered Gin’s take on “recession, San Diego-style” earlier this week, and he echoed it here in the index:

Combined with slow housing sales and a surge in foreclosures, we are probably in the San Diego-equivalent of a recession at this point. That weakness is expected to continue for most of 2008, with a projected job gain of only 5,000 – 8,000 for the year.

Gin said local consumer confidence has been impacted significantly by news of foreclosures and the housing market, finishing the year down almost 22 percent.

KELLY BENNETT

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