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Let’s get something straight. I really like talking with Kelly Cunningham and always have since he was an economist at the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce. In fact, that group hasn’t done much of anything of any worth since Cunningham and others left it a few years ago.

Cunningham is a smart analyst and a resource to the community. And if Steve Francis’ San Diego Institute for Policy Research has done anything right, it’s provide Cunningham a regular forum.

That said, here was Kelly Cunningham in his “Economic Ledger” released in February:

Local blogs and electronic news sites daily point to the softened real estate market as a sign that the sky is falling and that we can brace for a significant downturn.

We take a contrarian view.

While the nation and state may be in or going into recession, San Diego’s employment numbers do not suggest the local region has or soon will go into recession.

Hmm… Electronic news sites? To whom could he have been referring I wonder? One thing about us electronic types, we know how to archive.

Now, Cunningham has changed his tune.

Here was his quote today in Kelly Bennett‘s story:

“San Diego went through the (national) recession of 2001 without actually going into recession — we never had negative job growth,” said Kelly Cunningham, economist at the San Diego Institute for Policy Research, a conservative think tank. “I was thinking maybe we could get through this similarly but this time it doesn’t seem to be the case.”

That Cunningham is now embracing the view that the real estate downturn is so severe that it will destroy jobs in industries to which it is only tenuously connected is not something necessarily to celebrate. Yes, it’s what thinkers like Rich Toscano warned about starting years ago. But I would have preferred to be wrong.

If the housing market’s implosion indeed is causing so many widespread economic problems that reverberate to all kinds of industries and employers, this is nothing to be happy about.

As Toscano and others ably demonstrate, the housing market still has a long way to go in this correction.

It will soon be time for everyone to recognize just how widespread the consequences of that might be.

SCOTT LEWIS

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