• Expert: North Carolina's economy should continue to grow

    By: Jim Bradley


    CHARLOTTE, N.C. - North Carolina’s economy should continue to grow through the end of the year, but that won't eliminate uncertainty and unpredictability, University of North Carolina-Charlotte economist John Connaughton said.
    He offered his quarterly forecast and said that while anxiety over a possible hike in interest rates is making financial markets nervous, an increase won't have a big immediate impact on consumers.
    Even if the Federal Reserve decides to raise interest rates by one-quarter of a percent, he doesn't expect it to keep people from making large purchases. 
    "What's going to impact the decision much more (than interest rates) is whether or not that person thinks they're going to have a job for the next five years to make those payments," Connaughton said.
    Job numbers continue to rise in the Charlotte area.
    Officials with Marshall Air Systems said its employee count has risen all year.
    The company is in southwest Charlotte and manufactures specialized equipment for restaurant chains around the world.
    The issue of interest rates remains on his mind, vice president Ben Stuck said. 
    "That's going to affect a lot of our customers,” Stuck said. “Restaurant chains may be influenced in their decisions to build a new restaurant, if it's going to cost them more." 
    There is another economic factor that is already having a bigger impact on family budgets than a rate hike will, Connaughton said.
    Gasoline prices, which are on track to drop 50 cents a gallon from summertime highs, are leaving more money in people's pockets. 
    "If you get that 50-cent drop, it's the equivalent of a 1.5 percent pay increase after taxes in everybody's pocket,” Connaughton said. “So that's a big issue."

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