Traffic in the Santa Clarita Valley has surpassed its prior peak levels of 2010 to 2012, presenting an easy-to-see demonstration of the region’s strong growth. Economist Mark Schniepp, director of the California Economic Forecast, presented the statistic and many other metrics of the region as part of his economic forecast for Los Angeles County’s fast-growing outlier Thursday at the Hyatt Regency Valencia to a crowd of business people, economic development staff, commercial real estate brokers and bankers. “We can find very little weakness in the (Santa Clarita Valley) economy,” Schniepp said. The economist also presented another indicator of a region’s health – vacancy for commercial real estate. Last year, the office market in the Santa Clarita Valley had a vacancy rate of 8.3 percent, one of the lowest in all Southern California, he said, at a time when office landlords continue to struggle to fill large sites in Ventura County and other parts of L.A. County. Office employment also experienced growth, Schniepp said, adding 800 jobs in industries such as law, accounting, scientific research and technology. Industrial jobs increased about 500 last year, he said, rebounding to pre-Great Recession levels. “Trump inherited a very strong economy,” Schniepp said. With the area at full employment, Schniepp expects job growth to rise 2.7 percent this year in the Santa Clarita Valley primarily in retail, leisure services, health care and professional business services. The average salary rose last year in the area by 3.5 percent, but only 1.6 percent when adjusted for inflation, according to Schniepp. The highest paying sectors in the region are utilities, finance and insurance, professional and technical services, and management. In these industries, the average worker earns more than $71,000 per year, Schniepp said. He adamantly stressed that there was not enough housing under construction in the Santa Clarita Valley. As a result, median prices are rising, and at some point “affordability does become an issue,” he said. The median home price in January reached $572,200, he added. He predicts new housing permits to be about 14,100 in the Santa Clarita Valley between 2017 and 2022. In contrast, just under 5,300 residential units received permits between 2011 and 2016. Commercial investment into the city of Santa Clarita will increase substantially between this year and 2022, totaling more than $540 million. In contrast, investment totaled $394 million between 2011 and 2016, according to Schniepp. In his printed book, the economist outlined and summarized the status of commercial and residential projects either underway or in the pipeline for the area. Commercial projects approved and/or underway include VTC Square at 49,000 square feet; Tourney Place, a 51,000-square-foot medical office; Chinquetera, a 91,000-square-foot office park; Oakmont (West Creek) a 95-bed assisted living facility in architectural review; Tourney Road Hotel, a 290-room hotel; an expansion of Master’s College at 240,000 square feet; Oliver Hotel, a 134-room hotel that’s supposed to begin construction sometime this year; Vista Canyon, a 950,000-square-foot complex with a theater, hotel and retail; and Needham Ranch, a 508-acre project with 4.2 million square feet. Citing other examples of a healthy economy – tourism and hotel occupancy – Schniepp said both boomed last year. Local theme parks such as Universal Studios and Magic Mountain had near-record years, he added. “It’s nuts,” he said.