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SMU dean: North Texas should outpace sluggish U.S. economy

Excerpt

The following is from the March 2, 2010, edition of The Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

March 3, 2010

By SCOTT NISHIMURA

PLANO — The U.S. economy should see sluggish growth for the next two years, but North Texas will fare better because of its tax structure, business incentives, central location, and quality of life, SMU Business School Dean Albert Niemi said Tuesday in an annual forecast.

Texas will add 15 million jobs over the next 20 years, more than 50 percent above the national growth rate, Niemi forecast.

Niemi sided with other forecasts that call for growth in the real U.S. gross domestic product in a range of 2.8 to 3 percent in 2010, and said the fourth-quarter surge of 5.7 percent was the result of businesses replenishing depleted inventories.

He projected the U.S. unemployment rate will "bounce around 9-10 percent this year," and inflation will remain about 2 percent through year's end, when he expects the Federal Reserve will make a first attempt to push interest rates up.

He said there's a 30 percent chance the U.S. will drop back into recession early next year, coinciding with the expiration of Bush-era tax cuts, a potential rise in inflation, Fed efforts to contain inflation and a drop in stimulus-related spending.

Niemi also predicted there will be pressure in Washington to institute a national sales tax to help pare the growing national debt.

"I think you probably will see a national sales tax, and that's going to hurt poor people the most," he said.

Contributing to the sluggish recovery, he said, are the lack of job growth, not enough tax cuts in the federal stimulus, the Democrats' aggressive push on healthcare, the depressed housing market, the plunge in consumer spending and corresponding rise in the savings rate, and the impending end of the Bush tax cuts.

The stimulus was loaded with too much spending and not enough tax cuts, Niemi said. "I think we fumbled the ball."

The healthcare push, he said, "has frozen the labor market."

As for North Texas, Niemi predicted a continued rise in corporate relocations from depressed U.S. markets such as California and the Northeast.

"The recovery will be robust here," he said.

Niemi said he foresees no decreases in federal spending "till we have term limits in Congress. People want to develop pork barrel spending back home."

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