There are lots of contenders, but I'd have to say the projection of a 9.5 percent jobless rate within the next few months stands out. It's now at 9.1 percent, which is bad enough, but unemployment is typically a lagging indicator, and the UCLA economists expect some fallout from this year's nearly stagnant economy. "It will be a very ugly environment for incumbents," said senior economist David Shulman, who made a presentation during the Anderson Forecast's quarterly conference. Can you imagine a 9.5 percent unemployment rate in January, when the Republican primaries get going? Things should improve a bit by the November elections, but not by much - and so you have to wonder how President Obama, whose first-term performance isn't earning many raves, manages to get reelected in 14 months. Frankly, the UCLA economists were glum about most everything. Even their expectation that the nation can avoid a double-dip recession is based on a downbeat premise: That industries normally responsible for taking down the economy are so deep in the dumpster that any further contraction wouldn't make that much difference. "It's very distressing, alarming," said Forecast Director Ed Leamer of the jobs outlook. As for California, expect the jobless rate to hover around 12 percent through 2012. It's currently 12.1 percent.
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