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Byline: Jerry Mahoney
Oct. 1--In the months before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, there was hopeful speculation that the slowing U.S. economy could avoid a full-blown recession.
A recession is no longer in question.
Economists are voicing rare agreement that the country is entering its first recession in nearly a decade. For the Austin area, which managed to grow during the 1991-92 recession, the question is how bad it will be this time.
"Austin is going to feel this," said economist Ray Perryman of The Perryman Group in Waco. "So much of what happens in Austin is tied so closely to the global economy."
But he and other economists say Central Texas is likely to outperform other regions in the downturn, just as it did during the extraordinary growth of the 1990s, when the region added 282,470 jobs -- a 62 percent increase. Some economists see a recovery beginning as soon as the fourth quarter of this year.
"Technically speaking, we're in a recession," said Travis Tullos, an economist at Texas Perspectives, an Austin-based research firm. "I think we're looking at a pretty tough year in Austin."
But he said "stability factors," such as continued growth in the service and health-care sectors, will help balance the downturn in high technology.
From real estate to retail to high-tech -- sectors that fueled the region's robust growth during most of the 1990s -- the signals already were sobering before Sept. 11.
Employers have cut nearly 20,000 …