Business, banking and community leaders packed the Sheraton Imperial Hotel Monday in Research Triangle Park for this year’s annual Economic Forecast Forum. It's sponsored by the North Carolina Bankers Association and the North Carolina Chamber of Commerce.
Economic experts seem to be on the same page when it comes to forecasting the state’s economy in 2015. Expectations are high.
North Carolina’s unemployment rate is 5.8 percent. Mark Vitner says that’s no fluke. The Senior Economist at Wells Fargo told the crowd, he's optimistic.
“2015 and 2016 are likely to be, along with 2014, which is close to it, the best years for the economy in this decade. We are in the sweet spot of the economic expansion," said Vitner.
Vitner said he expects 2015 job growth in North Carolina to his 110,000. He noted, Mike Walden, an Economist at NC State, predicted job growth around 125,000.
"That's still in the ballpark," said Vitner. "We think a larger proportion of the jobs that are going to be added in the next two years will be full-time and going to pay more. So the number of jobs that we are going to add may be less."
Despite growth in manufacturing and single-family housing, Vitner says there are still challenges.
Economic growth continues to be centered in the Raleigh and Charlotte regions. And Vitner says there is still “de-leveraging” to worry about – many people reducing debt, and selling assets because of lack of income growth.
Gov. Pat McCrory received an applause when he referred to the state's 5.8 percent unemployment rate and how it has dropped three points in two years.
“I am pleased to report today that NC’s economy is much stronger than it was two years ago, much, much stronger," said McCrory. "In fact, North Carolina’s economy is now beginning to separate itself in a very positive manner.”
But McCrory says in order to continue this progress he needs lawmakers to approve a strategic incentives program when they return to Raleigh.
“And this has to be done literally in a matter of weeks if we are going to continue to have success that we’ve had during the past two years," said McCrory. "This has to be the number one priority in the first two weeks of this legislative session.”
McCrory said he and newly-named Commerce Secretary John Skvarla will soon be visiting major employers pushing future expansion in North Carolina, but he wonders if he has "the tools" he needs to secure deals.