The Marin Economic Forum hosted its Forecasting the Future on February 7th in Novato, with a focus on “business attraction in Marin County,” featuring several speakers on the topics of commercial real estate, transportation options for employers and a showcase of a business starting and growing in Marin.

In addition, MEF Chief Economist, Dr. Rob Eyler, provided a forecast for the economy in 2024 as the ongoing conversation around inflation continues. His outlook was more optimistic than last year’s predictions by many economists who thought skyrocketing inflation and higher interest rates could lead to a national recession. Eyler credited the national labor force’s “resilience” for staving off a recession. He also said increases in personal expense prices are predicted to drop to a 2021 level within two years. The trend could lead to falling interest rates and a slowdown in inflation.

“That doesn’t mean prices are going down, it means they’re rising at a slower rate,” Eyler said. “So there is still a pinch on our lower- to middle-income households in terms of the regressive tax that inflation provides as well as small businesses that are seeing rising costs.”

Marin County’s median hourly wage last year was $29.40, which was 28 cents higher than in 2019, according to state data. Eyler said the median wage remained higher than the state at large, where it was in the $24 range. He added that inflation is still “eating away” at Marin workers’ purchasing power.

“The wage regionally is pretty good, but is it good enough?” he said.

Marin’s median home price is predicted to drop by 1.4% this year, based on Zillow real estate data, Eyler said. He also noted that the county’s median price increased 30% between 2019 and 2023. In October 2023, the median price for a detached home in Marin was $1.75 million, according to county data.

While addressing Marin’s economic recovery from the pandemic, Eyler said there has been employment growth in industries such as construction, arts and entertainment and health care. However, industries like manufacturing, retail trade and financial services have experienced negative growth since 2020, according to state data.

Eyler said it looks like Marin County’s employment rate will reach a pre-pandemic level by 2026, based on data from the California Department of Finance. Marin had about 125,800 working residents in December, according to a state estimate.

Marin County had a 3.7% unemployment rate in December, the state’s fourth lowest, according to a report by the California Employment Development Department. The January unemployment data have not been released.

In using state data, Eyler showed a graphic that predicts Marin County’s population is expected to shrink by 7% by 2060 while the Bay Area’s population might grow by more than 5%.

“This is Marin County, unfortunately, but that depends on your perspective,” he said. “If you like seats in a restaurant, if you like relatively wealthy people demanding houses and having only one or no kids in that house, that is good news. If you are a small-business owner and you want choice in terms of workers, this is bad news.”

He also noted Marin’s aging population and said the county’s median age is a little over 47, which is 11 years older than the state’s median age.

Eyler said 65% of Marin County residents have at least a bachelor’s degree, which makes Marin one of the state’s most educated counties. He also said only 35% of people who work in Marin County have a bachelor’s degree or higher.

Eyler asked the audience to imagine using the county population’s “brainpower” to improve local businesses and workforces.

“We have the muscle here, it’s the matter of if we’re able to flex it,” he said.

Marin County Supervisor Eric Lucan heard Eyler’s forecast and found it to be positive compared to last year, when economists predicted a recession was imminent.


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