NCSU economist upbeat on Triangle economy


The national economy may be in for a long and difficult recovery, but North Carolina — and the Triangle in particular — are in competitive positions for economic growth in the next two years, according to N.C. State University economist Mike Walden.

In today’s Herald-Sun article,Walden forecasts that the state will net 70,000 to 80,000 new jobs annually in both 2010 and 2011.

Nationally, employment, retail sales, home sales, wage and salary income and state tax revenues have all registered gains in the past six to nine months, according to Walden, but most economic indicators are still below pre-recessionary levels.

“What I think is happening now is that we are looking at an economy in which we’re going to continue to grow but at a slower pace,” Walden said. “I do not see us falling back into a recession.”

Walden’s report contrasts with recent reports sounding alarms about the U.S. being in danger of falling into a double-dip recession, or worse, a depression.

North Carolina’s unemployment rate will decline gradually for the rest of the year, according to Walden, falling to 9.5 percent by the end of 2010 and 8.5 at year end 2011.

The picture is particularly bright for the Triangle, which Walden forecasts will have the lowest unemployment rate of the state in 2010 and 2011, falling to 7.4 percent by the end of this year and to 6.7 percent in 2011.

As of May, unemployment in the Triangle stood at 8 percent. State unemployment for the month was 10.3 percent.

Walden said the Triangle’s economy has fared well because it is based on higher education, technology, research and development and health care.

“We have an economic structure here that most experts think is really the economy of the future, so I don’t think it’s a surprise that we’re doing well,” he said.

“As far as what we need to work on, we need to work on keeping those positives positive,” he added. “We have to make sure we address our infrastructure, roads, transportation, and make sure that businesses and people are able to move around. We need to watch our real estate costs, which are very competitive.”

Walden said that at the current rate of job creation, employment in North Carolina will return to pre-recession levels in three to four years.

Walden said the state has advantages in high labor productivity, a modest cost of living, affordable higher education expenses, superior performance in recent national math tests for elementary students.

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