BRADENTON -- While it may seem like a slow start, 2013 will end up being a good year for Manatee County's economy with businesses expanding and the housing market continuing to recover, economist Henry Fishkind predicted Thursday.
"We are making good progress," Fishkind told several hundred business and community leaders at the annual economic forecast breakfast sponsored by the Bradenton-Area Economic Development Corp. "It is not all goodness and light, but we will get there."
The Orlando-based economist said the housing recovery continues with strong sales and pricing up significantly. Unemployment claims continue to drop and more hiring is expected.
But the state's huge foreclosure numbers -- 10 percent higher than last year -- continue to be a drag on the housing industry.
"It is enough to restrain housing prices," Fishkind said.
Once the nation's fiscal problems are worked out, Fishkind expects the $85 billion a month being pumped into the economy through federal stimulus dollars will have a significant impact.
"It will fuel growth into the later part of 2013," Fishkind said.
He predicts tax and entitlement reform measures will be passed by Congress and, if the state decides to expand its Medicaid participation, that could have a positive impact on overall growth.
With a 1.6 percent job growth in Manatee County for the past year, Fish
kind said this metropolitan statistical area, which includes Manatee, Sarasota and Charlotte counties, is one of the best performing areas in the state.
The area's jobless claims each week continue to drop, a good indicator that hiring will improve, he said.
The nation's Gross Domestic Product growth will be faster in the second half of the year and even faster in 2014 and 2015, he said.
"Interest rates will remain extraordinarily low through 2014 but then rise significantly," he said.
Because of worries about the fiscal cliff, Fishkind said investment spending has fallen off.
And the recovery has been very lackluster, he said, evident when you look at comparisons of three years of growth following prior recessions. This recent recession has been followed by the weakest growth.
"It all relates to fiscal uncertainties," he said.
But Fishkind said good things are ahead for the real estate industry. Home construction will accelerate, he said, as developers position themselves for building by buying up huge tracts of vacant land.
He also sees good news for non-residential construction.
"Finally we will see some improvement in commercial construction," he said, with that sector accelerating through 2014 and 2015.
EDC Chair John Rice drew laughter and applause at the beginning of Thursday's breakfast meeting with his own economic prediction: The economy in 2013 will be good with record-breaking growth stimulating big purchases in appliances.
Rice is the owner of Rice's Appliances and HDTV.