Chicago Fed economist to present 2014 outlook

William “Bill” Strauss will outline economic projections for 2014 at the DeKalb County Economic Development Corp.’s annual Economic Outlook Luncheon. The senior economist and economic adviser for the Chicago Federal Reserve Bank will deliver his presentation from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Jan. 16 at the DeKalb County Farm Bureau Center for Agriculture in Sycamore.

Business and community leaders have indicated that they value Strauss’ input and perspective as they define and execute business plans for the coming year. Reservations are required as the event has sold out in past years.

Strauss is responsible for analyzing the Midwest economy, particularly in the manufacturing sector. He produces the monthly Chicago Fed Midwest Manufacturing Index and organizes the bank’s economic outlook symposium and automotive outlook symposium.

A year ago, Strauss expected the U.S. economy to expand at a pace around trend, employment to rise moderately and unemployment to edge lower. He also projected inflation to be relatively contained because of slack in the economy and manufacturing output to be around trend.

While the economy has been growing, Strauss indicated that the growth has not been impressive and businesses have not been feeling the pressure to expand. He did note that there were signs that banks and financial institutions were more willing to lend money and businesses and people were more willing to borrow.

While employment growth has been positive, Strauss stated that its pace has been too slow to recover all the jobs lost during the recession.

On the positive side, Strauss indicated that oil prices were lower than 30 years ago when adjusted for inflation. He also noted that increased U.S. natural gas production made possible by hydraulic fracturing will generate positive economic activity.

According to the most recent Chicago Fed Midwest Manufacturing Index in October, Midwest manufacturing output increased 0.4 percent to a seasonally adjusted level of 97.4 (where 2007-level production is equivalent to 100). The manufacturing economy underpins a significant portion of the DeKalb County economy.

Over the past three years, more than 20 manufacturers have expanded within or relocated to DeKalb County.

To support expansion and attract new industry, DCEDC has collaborated with businesses and educators to promote industrial career development through the DeKalb Ogle County Workforce Development Consortium.

To hear Bill Strauss’ Economic Outlook presentation and network with business and community leaders, register for DCEDC’s 2014 Economic Outlook Luncheon online at www.dcedc.org.

• Paul Borek is executive director of the DeKalb County Economic Development Corp.