Spring economic forecast: Growth expected to continue

by: Jim Bradley Updated:

Loading

Is the local economy poised for growth in 2014?  A prominent local economist thinks so.  John Connaughton said he expects to see growth in jobs, housing and manufacturing in 2014.

"I think 2014 is a potentially big year, " Connaughton said, after delivering his quarterly economic forecast in uptown Charlotte.  

A rise in home sale prices and construction activity could lead to increased economic activity and spin-off job creation.

Connaughton points to a consistent increase in sales prices for homes in Mecklenburg County.  He said as prices rise, potential buyers will become actual buyers. 

"It changes consumers' psychology.  It pushes up that decision.  They say, 'Oh, wait a minute.  If I’m thinking about doing this in the near future I’d better do it now,'" Connaughton said.

His forecast also calls for increases in activity in nearly every sector of the state's economy during 2014. 

Connaughton is the Babson Capital professor of financial economics in the Belk College of Business, and presents his forecast quarterly to members of the Charlotte business community and the media.

CLICK HERE for more on Connaughton's presentation.


2013 in Review

For 2013, first quarter GSP declined slightly by an annualized real rate of 0.1 percent.  During the second quarter, GSP growth increased substantially to an annualized real rate of 3.6 percent. In the third quarter, GSP recorded an annualized real growth rate of 2.3 percent. In the fourth quarter of 2013, GSP is expected to grow at an annualized real rate of 4.1 percent. Fourteen of the state’s fifteen economic sectors are forecast to experience output increases during 2013. The sectors with the strongest expected growth are: 

•    Agriculture with a projected real increase of 22.7 percent;
•    Educational and Health Services with a projected real increase of 4.9 percent;
•    Transportation, Warehousing, and Utilities (TWU) with a projected real increase of 4.3 percent;
•    Business and Professional Services with a projected real increase of 4.1 percent;
•    Wholesale Trade with a projected real increase of 3.6 percent;
•    Other Services with a projected real increase of 2.9 percent; and
•    Finance, Insurance, and Real Estate with a projected real increase of 2.9 percent.


2013 Employment in Review

Seasonally adjusted nonagricultural employment in North Carolina reached 4,096,800 persons in December 2013, an increase of 1.6 percent over the employment level in December 2012.  The state gained 64,500 net jobs during the year.
Eleven of the state's fourteen nonagricultural sectors of the economy experienced employment increases during 2013.  The sectors with the strongest employment increases in 2013 are information at 7.6 percent, business and professional services at 4.1 percent, and TWU at 3.8 percent.

The North Carolina seasonally adjusted unemployment rate began 2013 at 9.5 percent, almost two percentage points higher than the United States rate.  By December, the North Carolina rate had fallen to 6.9 percent, while the United States rate had fallen to 6.7 percent.

2014 Economic Forecast

To confirm the January forecast numbers, the North Carolina economy is expected to increase by an inflation-adjusted rate of 3.0 percent during 2014.  For 2014, first quarter GSP is expected to increase at an annualized real rate of 2.1 percent.  During the second quarter, GSP is expected to increase at an annualized real rate of 3.5 percent. In the third quarter, GSP is expected to record an annualized real growth rate of 2.9 percent. In the fourth quarter of 2014, GSP is expected to grow at an annualized real rate of 2.8 percent.

All fifteen of the state’s economic sectors are forecast to experience output increases during 2014. The sectors with the strongest expected growth are:

•    Agriculture with a projected real increase of 11.9 percent;
•    Construction with a projected real increase of 4.2 percent;
•    Other Services with a projected real increase of 4.1 percent;
•    Government with a projected real increase of 3.8 percent;
•    Wholesale Trade with a projected real growth rate of 3.6 percent;
•    Transportation, Warehousing, and Utilities (TWU) with a projected real increase of
3.4 percent; and
•    Finance, Insurance, and Real Estate with a projected real increase of 3.3 percent.

2014 Employment Forecast

Both the U.S. and North Carolina unemployment rates are expected to continue the same downward trend throughout 2014, and by December the North Carolina unemployment rate is expected to be around 6.0 percent. Seasonally adjusted nonagricultural employment in North Carolina is expected to reach 4,157,000 persons in December 2014, an increase of 1.5 percent over the employment level in December 2013.  The state is expected to gain 60,200 net jobs during the year.
Twelve of the state's fourteen nonagricultural sectors of the economy are expected to experience employment increases during 2014.  The sectors with the strongest employment increases in 2014 are construction at 3.7 percent, wholesale trade at 3.2 percent, and TWU at 3.3 percent.

Connaughton said, “Several recent factors suggest that 2014 will represent a growth year for the North Carolina economy” 

•    For the first time in years the U.S. Congress has passed a budget.  This effectively puts a closure on sequestration and allows for government agencies to cut spending, without furloughing employees.
•    Consumers are returning to the economy.  The February 2014 consumer confidence index stood at 78.1, stringing together six months of good performance.
•    For the first time in five years we are seeing sustained increases in housing prices.  The Case-Shiller Home Price Index increased by 13.4 percent from December of 2012 to December 2013, for the 20 City Composite.
•    Because of the improvement in the economy during 2013, the projected budget deficit for the 2013 fiscal year is down to $680 billion, or 4.1 percent of GDP.  This compares to the 2012 fiscal year budget deficit of $1.1 trillion, which was the fourth consecutive year of budget deficits in excess of one trillion dollars. 

“All of these factors point to a healthy recovery year for the North Carolina economy in 2014.”

The full forecast report is available here.