N.C. State University economist Michael Walden said this week that the economy is indisputably building up steam and moving in a direction we haven’t seen in years. Walden published his prognostications in the latest edition of his regular economic update, “The North Carolina Economic Outlook, Winter 2013.”
Walden said the economic indicators he’s been tracking point to one conclusion: The so-far sluggish economic recovery is now accelerating to the point that the Triangle’s jobless rate could fall to near 5 percent by the end of next year. The Triangle unemployment rate in October was 6.4 percent.
He also predicts the state will add at least 100,000 jobs next year, bringing down the statewide jobless rate to as low as 6.5 percent, from 8 percent in October.
A rebound in the housing market and household finances is largely behind the trend, Walden said, noting that the nation’s real gross domestic product is above its prerecession peak. Real-estate values, while improving, are still below 2007 levels, but the housing market decline appears to have ended, he said.
However, Walden also noted that most of the job growth in 2013 has bypassed large swaths of the state and benefited the three largest metro areas: Charlotte, the Triangle and the Triad.
For example, North Carolina’s growth rate between 2010 and 2013 was 6.4 percent, while the Raleigh-Cary region grew at a rate of 9.2 percent and Charlotte at 11.5 percent.
At the bottom of the scale, Rocky Mount shrunk by 3.3 percent. Goldsboro, Fayetteville and Hickory all grew less than 2 percent.