Published: Jan 05, 2013 04:30 PM
Modified: Jan 05, 2013 04:17 PM
CARY - Economists around the state are offering less-than-rosy projections for 2013, but N.C. State University economist Mike Walden offered some reasons for confidence.
The professor predicted more jobs and consumer spending in a presentation to the Cary Chamber of Commerce on Thursday, pointing to the Triangle and Charlotte as the top of the ticket. Jobs magnet:
Walden has a bullish prediction for the Research Triangle. He predicts the area will take between 33 percent and 40 percent of all new jobs in North Carolina this year, he told business leaders at the Prestonwood Country Club.
The region only has about a fifth of the states population, but the disproportionate jobs growth is feasible, considering the growth in biopharmaceuticals for towns like Cary and Holly Springs. Raleigh-Cary has regained about 85 percent of the jobs it lost in the recession, compared to about 44 percent statewide.
But the Triangle doesnt have a monopoly on economic activity. The Charlotte area is posting a slighter lower unemployment rate than the Triangles.
Charlotte came on strong this year, Walden said. Housing restarts:
The economist blamed much of the recessions bite, which could be seen for years in frozen plans on Carys outskirts and half-built subdivisions throughout western Wake. In fact, some economists have said the recent housing crash was worse than the property bust of the Great Depression, he said.
But with housing values flat or appreciating here for all of 2012, Walden was ready to say the housing market has bottomed out at last.
The majority of economists think that the housing market has finally turned around and is headed into positive territory, he said.
But he warned of an emerging theory that homeowners have been waiting for years to sell, and that theyll unleash a wave of shadow inventory that will sink prices and demand just as theyre coming back. Extra cash:
People will spend more money on consumer goods in 2013, Walden projected.
With stocks and other financial assets recovering, and average household debt approaching 20-year-lows, locals will be more willing to shell out for food, electronics and household decor, boosting the commerce sector and the economy as a whole, he said.
There is a tie-in between wealth and spending, Walden said. Lingering doubts:
Among other economists, the forecast is mixed, especially when the focus is all of North Carolina rather than its fast-growing hubs.
We have almost ignored how badly our state has done, John Connaughton, an economist at UNC-Charlotte, said Wednesday at an economic forum in Durham.
He projects 1.8 percent growth of the states GDP in 2013. The states overall job recovery has lagged, he said, while its per capita income has fallen from 27th to 37th in the nation in 12 years.
Gov.-elect Pat McCrory offered a similar take at the same Durham forum.
The fact of the matter is our brand of incredible economic prosperity has been diminished a little bit here in North Carolina, he said. We have to own up to it.