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SALT LAKE CITY -- It's a game of good news, bad news for the economy. The experts are saying the stock market, gross domestic product and most other indicators hit their bottom earlier this year and are on their way back up. Unemployment, though, is another story.
Wells Fargo economist Kelly Matthews says there is a lot to be encouraged about with the economy, both nationwide and here in Utah.
The gross domestic product is forecast to grow again in the third and fourth quarter, after losses starting in the third quarter of last year and running through the end of the second quarter of 2009.
Retail sales picked up in August, possibly boosted by back-to-school sales and the Cash for Clunkers program. Food prices and transportation costs dropped in August, easing the burden on consumers.
But Matthews says it's going to take a while for all of that to trickle down to people who are looking for a job.
"We do believe that there will likely be some increased demand, some increased output," Matthews explains, "but through most of next year it will probably be met through increased productivity gains, rather than through hiring."Translation: employers will ask more work of their current employees, rather than spread the workload among current employees and new hires.
He's forecasting a national unemployment rate of 10 percent through most of 2010, finally dropping back below 10 percent in the fourth quarter of the year. Currently, the nation's unemployment rate is at about 9.3 percent after the second quarter of 2009.
The picture looks better for Utah, where unemployment is at 6 percent and likely to hold steady through 2010.
But not everyone shares the same gloomy outlook for the job market. Sterling Jenson, an investment strategist for Wells Capital Management, is asking, "What if this thing recovers faster than expected?" He said, "I think you could see improvement, at least faster on the margins than expectations that are out there."
Jenson wouldn't be surprised if that turns out to be true, which would, in turn, continue to fuel growth for the stock market and gross domestic product.
Matthews says, "All I would say is, I hope, hope, hope that's correct."