The Breakdown

Explaining Southern California's economy

Wells Fargo economist on Calif. and LA outlook: 'Better than 2012'

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A Wells Fargo economist sees progress and challenges in 2013 for the California and Los Angeles-area. 

"It's going to be better than 2012," said John Silvia, from the 11th floor of the Wells Fargo building in downtown L.A.

Silvia has used numerous charts to analyze major economic issues for Southern California: housing and jobs. 

"You're creating jobs in this region," he said. "It's not a jobless recovery here." 

Wells Fargo is the largest mortgage lender in the U.S. and California.

"For Wells Fargo, L.A. is  a huge and growing marketplace," Silvia said. "But it's not representative of the U.S."

He flips to another chart, this one showing mortgage rates compared to home prices nationally. It shows rates have fallen to historic lows, while prices are headed up. 

"This is a huge bonus for home buyers getting into the market," Silvia said. "For a lot of them, it's a good deal."

But not necessarily for everyone. Silvia said there is a lack of affordable housing in Southern California. 

"What do you about people making $35,000 to $70,000 a year?" he asks.

The upper end of that range looks prosperous, but in many areas of Southern California, including L.A., it's not enough money to buy single-family homes - many averaging about $400,000.

Silvia expects  the L.A. region will see the construction of more multifamily housing — apartment buildings — where lower- and middle-income residents can rent. His data already shows the leading edge of this: construction of multifamily housing in L.A. have taken off in the past two years, outpacing the construction of single-family homes. 

However, Silvia calls the matter of housing affordability a "long-term question" and labels it a challenge for the region. 

Overall, Silvia anticipates that 2013 will be a relatively good year. The issue of housing affordability nags at him.  But he also thinks that first quarter economic growth will come in at 3 to 3.5 percent, a big boost from the fourth quarter of 2012's sub-one-percent number and a more bullish prediction than some economists who think the U.S. is going to be stuck with growth in the 2 percent range for the rest of the year.

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