SEPT. 19, 2002
CONTACT: Mike Stepanovich, 661/664-2456; mstepanovich@csub.edu

Kern County's economy continued showing signs of recovery in the second quarter of this year, according to a survey in the latest issue of the Kern Economic Journal, published by the Center for Economic Education and Research at California State University, Bakersfield.

The quarterly Kern Consumer Sentiment Survey showed consumers in Kern County have become more optimistic about local economic conditions. The Consumer Sentiment Index improved 12 points from 113 in the first quarter to 125 in the second quarter 2002.

Healthy consumer confidence is nothing but good news for Kern County, said Mark Evans, an economics professor and interim dean of CSUB's Extended University Division, who conducts the quarterly survey. "A robust 25 percent of households purchased a big-ticket item in the second quarter, compared to 11 percent in the first quarter," he said. ýConsumer expectations are continuing their strong recovery from the lows reached in the third and fourth quarters of 2001.ţ

Also, Bakersfield's cost of living index showed the city continues to be the most affordable metropolitan area in California. Of the six categories that comprise the index - housing, groceries, utilities, transportation, health care and household items - Bakersfield was the least expensive in three of the categories. Bakersfield has the most affordable housing, least expensive groceries and lowest transportation costs.

The only down note was the Business Outlook Survey showed a one-point decrease in the quarter ending March 31. "Business managers are slightly less optimistic about local economic conditions," said Abbas Grammy, CSUB economics professor and editor of the Kern Economic Journal. He noted that the Business Outlook Index declined 1.2 points to 124.9 from 126.1. Still, the figure is well above the third and fourth quarters of 2001 when the index was at 104 and 106 respectively.

Factors contributing to business pessimism include:
´ Crisis in business ethics as a result of corporate scandals.
´ Volatility of the stock market and the falling trend of stock prices.
´ Uncertainty in international politics, especially in the Middle East.
´ Lack of rainfall resulting in drought conditions.
´ Decline in the tourist industry, both locally and nationally.
´ The state budget deficit.

But there were also some reasons for optimism, Grammy said, including:
´ Low interest rates.
´ Construction boom.
´ Location of major distribution centers in Kern County.

The Kern Economic Journal is a quarterly publication focusing on local economic trends and developments. Grammy, chairman of CSUB's economics department, directs the Center for Economic Education and Research and is the journal's editor.

The journal provides the community with economic information produced by the center. "What we provide is local economic news," Grammy said. "This helps local business people make better decisions. We study local economic trends to determine how the local economy is progressing."

The latest issue also includes:

´ A story on a national survey that shows Kern County is ranked low in economic strength, primarily due to unstable economic factors.

´ A story on the Southeast Metropolitan Bakersfield Enterprise zone and the economic gains it has realized.

´ A story reporting Kern's unemployment rate dropped to its "natural rate" of about 10 percent in the second quarter.

A subscription to the Kern Economic Journal costs $40 per year. For a free initial copy or more information about any of the studies published in the journal, please call the Center for Economic Education and Research at 661/664-2460. You can also visit the journal's website at www.csub.edu/kej.