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Economists predict modest growth for Central New York in 2012

Look for more steady modest growth in the Central New York economy in the coming year.  According to numbers crunched by CenterState C-E-O,  2011 was a reasonably strong year for local businesses, with the economy growing slightly faster than the national average.  The downside though was that the number of jobs created  still lagged when compared to the national economy. Gary Keith, Regional economist for M&T Bank, thinks that could change this year.

"Employers have used productivity aggressively for several years now, but they’re getting to the point where they’ve stretched their existing work forces pretty hard," said Keith. "So, when do you get to the point where the rubber band breaks, so to speak. I think we’re going to see some modest hiring in 2012, barring anything that would impact confidence."

Business confidence could be rattled by anything from the next round of the payroll tax extension debate in Washington, to European economic turmoil. But one reason Keith is optimistic, is that more businesses are coming to the bank.

“We’re seeing more borrowing, in terms of business borrowing. Not yet at the consumer level, but the businesses are starting to ramp that up. That tells me that they’re expanding somewhat, that they’re looking to grow their businesses and that’s the first step," he said.

Keith says that while local businesses grew last year at a rate higher than the national economy, the number of jobs didn't grow at the same level. He says that could change though, because businesses can't stretch their workers much more than they already are.  Local growth will continue to be seen in the education and medical sectors as well according to Keith.  According to the numbers, employment was up one percent last year, but that is still be low pre recession levels.