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Turn that frown upside down and get out your "Mission Accomplished" banner. The recession is over.
The U.S. economy grew in the third quarter for the first time in more than a year, and the latest UCLA economic forecast says the recession is over. The lead author of the UCLA study says the California economy is showing some signs of growth, but unemployment is still too high. And normally prosperous Orange County is lagging the rest of the region -- in part because of unemployment and a sideways housing market.
Another economic report from the Commerce Department echoed UCLA's findings:
The much-awaited turnaround reported Thursday by the Commerce Department ended the streak of four straight quarters of contracting economic activity, the first time that's happened on records dating to 1947.
It also marked the first increase since the spring of 2008, when the economy experienced a short-lived uptick in growth.
The third-quarter's performance -- the strongest since right before the country fell into recession in December 2007 -- was slightly better than the 3.3 percent growth rate economists expected.
Forecasters say that next year, Orange County could lose another 9,000 jobs, but will eventually start showing signs of life in the middle of 2010.
"The housing sector needs to rebound because it represents a large engine of economic activity in California and more so in Orange County," according to the report. "As housing expands so will the general economy. If history is our guide and repeats itself, the pace of home sales in Southern California will increase, and sharply over the next two to three years."
The rest of California can also expect a bit of a recession hangover.
"The negative effects of this recession ought to linger well into the next decade," according to the report. "The cause of the depth of the 2008-2009 recession was an over-leveraged, unregulated expansion of credit in the financial sector coupled with overextended consumers out on a buying binge.
"The fear factor engendered by the collapse of venerable financial institutions with the crisis atmosphere in Washington permeated the economy as it dove into recession toward the end of 2008. Though consumer sentiment and business conditions are now improving, the over-indebtedness of consumers, particularly in the face of lower home and equity values, and the over-leveraged financial services industry will take time to cure," according to the report.