Tomorrow’s 26th annual Horizons Economic Forecast will be a first for presenters Neal Johnson and Martin Wurm, both professors at Pacific Lutheran University.
The Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber approached the pair after University of Puget Sound professors Bruce Mann and Doug Goodman announced they were retiring from the project last year. Mann and Goodman had run the event since its inception.
Johnson and Wurm — who hold Ph.D.'s in Economics from the University of Washington and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, respectively — spent the better part of their summers and a significant amount of time between classes this fall preparing this year’s forecast.
Rather than reinventing the wheel, Johnson and Wurm say they tweaked Mann and Goodman’s methodology to accommodate their own preferences.
“We ended up making some minor changes to Bruce and Doug's approach, which allowed us, among other things, to incorporate data that arrived late in the year and add more information on the housing sector, which we hope is useful for our audience,” Johnson said.
They also spent a significant portion of time in the fall finding qualitative and anecdotal evidence to help support their findings.
“What sectors or employers do the job numbers come from? What would low interest rates really mean for Pierce County?” Johnson explained.
Last year was strong and some of that momentum will carry on in 2014, they said.
“The labor and retail sector specifically are starting to look a bit better than in previous years and real estate and trade should continue at around the same performance level we have seen this past year,” Johnson said. “It is important to point out, however, that the recovery is not yet complete. There are still problems in the local labor and real estate markets for instance and some rather significant downside risks are looming — the ongoing federal budget crisis, the stagnant Euro area and slumping growth in the Pacific, specifically China. We are doing better than we were a few years ago, but there is also room for improvement left.”
Johnson and Wurm have extensive empirical training: Johnson’s fields are resource and environmental economics, while Wurm is a macroeconomist with a focus on financial and money markets as well as informal economies. Before coming to PLU, Johnson was a senior economist for the city of Portland, while Wurm joined the university directly out of graduate school.