The Santa Clarita and Antelope valleys are expected to finally feel improvements in the housing market this year while job growth is expected to continue in both northern Los Angeles County and California, economists said today at an economic forecast conference in Santa Clarita.

The 2011 Economic and Real Estate Outlook, organized by the Santa Clarita Valley Economic Development Corporation and College of the Canyons, was held at the Hayatt Regency Valencia.

Mark Schniepp, principal of the California Economic Forecast, said home sales for the Santa Clarita and Antelope valleys were still “unspectacular” by the end of the first quarter of 2011, even though prices had risen slightly. Sales activity is expected to pick up the northern county in the summer.

However, the housing market is expected to improve this year due to more accelerated job growth underway and fewer mortgage loan defaults, Schniepp said. In the Santa Clarita Valley, real estate owned property sales are on the decline.

“The problem is correcting itself but it’s frustratingly slow,” Schniepp said.

He added that residential production should rebound this year with activity increasing in the following years as the populations growth increases demand.

There is also growth on the job front in the two valleys, with further growth projected in 2012 and 2013. The two labor markets’ job creation is expected to be focused in construction, professional services, leisure services and retail.

Jerry Nickelsburg, senior economist for the UCLA Anderson Forecast, said the statewide economy is also improving. He identified the California’s advantages above other states in the nation as its focus on more technology-focused manufacturing and its growth in export activity and tourism.

“The demand for California goods is increasing, but the problem is business in California doesn’t have the confidence to hire,” Nickelsburg said, adding the drop in unemployment levels will take more time.

Employment is expected to increase by a little more than 1 percent this year, with growth levels reaching about 3.1 percent in 2012 and 3.7 percent in 2013.