Los Angeles County should escape a recession in 2008 and 2009, according to a forecast to be released this morning from the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp.

Although more slow growth lies ahead as the housing slump continues, enough sectors of the local economy are showing modest growth that the area should sidestep a downturn.

The LAEDC report forecasts that L.A. County should add about 30,000 jobs in 2008 for a sluggish growth rate of 0.7 percent. That's the same pace as 2007, when 30,600 jobs were created.

"We're on a two-track economy right now," said Jack Kyser, chief economist with the LAEDC. "Housing, related activity and financial services are all struggling, while other sectors, chiefly tourism, international trade and health services, are doing modestly better."

But Kyser said several wild cards are on the horizon that could slow job growth even further or even tip the county into job losses, the definition of a localized recession. Chief among these is the possibility of labor strife in several key industries, including entertainment and trade. Both the Screen Actors Guild and International Longshore and Warehouse Union are negotiating contracts.

Another wild card is the possibility of more shocks to the already beleaguered financial sector that could worsen the credit crunch.

If these setbacks don't materialize, Kyser said growth should pick up later this year as the Federal Reserve's interest rate cuts and the national economic stimulus package signed last week kick in. The forecast projects 50,000 jobs being added to the L.A. County market in 2009, for a growth rate of 1.2 percent.

If the projections for 2008 and 2009 hold, then later this year, the county should finally surpass its record employment level of 4,135,700 non-farm payroll jobs reached in 1990. "That's a sorry record of 18 or 19 years without hitting a new employment high, given the economic base that we have," Kyser said.

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