Local economic expert calls 2014 'the happy year' for NC

by: Scott Wickersham Updated:

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Dr. John Connaughton with University of North Carolina at Charlotte said Wednesday in his annual economic forecast that plenty of companies will be hiring this year in North Carolina in construction, agriculture and manufacturing.

He called 2014 "the happy year." "Happy" isn't a word Connaughton has used much lately when describing the economy, but he calls 2014 a breakout year.

"It's going to be the first time we see all sectors expanding fairly well during the year," he said.

Economic growth in North Carolina is expected to be up an average of 3 percent, with a big 3.5 percent jump in the second quarter.

A big factor is housing.

"You cannot underestimate how the housing industry returning will affect the overall economy," Connaughton said.

Rising interest rates and prices will spur homes sales, creating jobs in construction and manufacturing.

Connughton said many open jobs can't be filled because of a skills gap. The unemployed are not trained for them. It's a concern for local lawmakers.

"A lot of workers of the past simply don't have those skillsets. See we need to look at how we educate or future workforce," said Rep. Rodney Moore.

"We have a problem in that mismatch with our older workers," said Rep. Kelly Alexander.

Alexander is looking for solutions.

"We have to incentivize private industry to be willing to do some of the training," Alexander said.

A transitioning workforce that Connaughton said will result in fewer people out of work in the long run, with as many as 60,00 new jobs created in 2014.

It was gradual but North Carolinas unemployment rate dropped from 9.4 at the start of 2013, down to 7 percent at the end of last year.

Connaughton sees it dropping to 5.9 percent at the end of this year.

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