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(Brian Miller is on vacation.)

PORTLAND, OR-Despite some major economic hurdles, including continued increases in commercial real estate vacancies, a senior economist for Union Bank of California said Thursday that he remains optimistic for the Pacific Northwest region in 2002. “While near-term losses will be great, the nation and the Pacific Northwest region will emerge from this difficult period stronger and more prosperous,” said senior economist Keitaro Matsuda.

Due to lower mortgage rates, the residential real estate sector in the region has held its own. However, the same cannot be said in the commercial sector where office vacancies have more than doubled in downtown Seattle, and increased by more than 2% in Portland, he indicated. Rising unemployment is a major concern in the region, especially taking into consideration continued layoffs in the airline industry.

“The region was especially hard hit by the announced layoff of some 30,000 Boeing employees, and depressed capital spending by businesses will hamper the recovery of Oregon’s semiconductor industry,” said Matsuda.

Oregon currently has the second highest unemployment rate in the nation (6.3%), followed closely by Washington with a 6.4% jobless rate, ranking it third in the country.

Matsuda remains optimistic, though, that the region’s economy will pick up next year, showing signs of recovery as the national economy rebounds. “US recovery was imminent prior to the terrorist attacks,” he reported, “due in part to the level of excess business inventories falling and some technology companies reporting improved demand for products.” Consumer spending was holding up, and initial claims for unemployment insurance were down.

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