“In 2012, I think housing is just going to limp along and maybe marginally improve,” Potiowsky says. “You’re not going to see any huge increase in building.”
That will extend some of the pain that many of Oregon’s smaller forest products communities have been feeling for years.
“As a whole, the wood products industry is still dependent on the larger economy,” says Larry Holzgang, a business development officer for Business Oregon in Josephine, Jackson, Lake, and Harney and Klamath counties. “Some of our wood products and secondary wood products companies are still struggling, and that’s not going to turn around until the entire housing and construction industry in the entire United States does.”
Unemployment, which was at 9.6% in September, had dropped from 10.7% the year before, but it still remained flat through this past summer and above the national rate of 9.1%. Potiowsky says that’s not likely to change much in the months ahead and job growth on the whole will be slow.
Economists and policymakers are also concerned about conditions in foreign markets and how they could impact Oregon. For starters, the European debt crisis, involving countries such as Greece, Portugal, Spain and Italy, threatens to spiral out of control. If it does, Oregon’s European export trade could be constricted. Duy sees an even bigger problem if the European debt crisis results in further tightening of international credit markets.
Another foreign market of concern is China. At present, China is Oregon’s biggest export destination; about $4 billion of Oregon’s $17.7 billion in exports in 2010 went to China. Any slowdown in the Chinese economy could impact Oregon, and there are concerns that China may be harboring a real estate bubble and a bigger economic slowdown than the country is letting on. In addition, political tensions over the value of Chinese currency could potentially lead to higher tariffs on Oregon exports to the country.