Economist predicts slow 2014 growth rate

by Kelly Corbett
Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Staff photo by Allison Potter 

Yousry Sayed, from left, Barbara Pennington, Julie Orr and Chuck Bon participate in the contract research organization panel during the Outlook: Building Economic Clusters conference on Thursday, Oct. 10 at the University of North Carolina Wilmington’s Burney Center.

A local economist revealed predictions for a 2.5 percent economic growth rate in 2014, meaning the unemployment rate would not stabilize.

Dr. Woody Hall, senior economist and professor of economics, broke down the numbers for business owners, Realtors, community leaders and researchers during the University of North Carolina Wilmington’s annual OUTLOOK conference on Thursday, Oct. 10.

Presented by the Swain Center for Business and Economic Services, economists compared current and future economic numbers to times surrounding the economic downturn of 2009.

“I’m a little worried about this one,” Hall said before beginning his presentation.

To keep the unemployment rate stable, output growth must reach at least 3 percent, he said. On a more positive note, Hall said the unemployment rate has been declining since the third-quarter of 2012.

July 2013 unemployment data shows seasonally adjusted rates at 8.7 percent in New Hanover County, above the United States unemployment rate of 7.4 percent but slightly lower than the 8.9 percent North Carolina unemployment rate.

“A large part of that had to do with the fact that we were extremely hard hit during the recession,” Hall said. “We were heavily dependent upon some sectors that really took some hits during the most recent national recession.”

Since 2008, there have been decreases in manufacturing, retail trade and educational services among other jobs. Hall said construction has taken the biggest hit with a 39.6 percent decrease.

In February 2013, Brunswick County was moved out of the Wilmington/New Hanover County Metropolitan Statistical Area into the Myrtle Beach/Horry County Metropolitan Statistical Area.

The Bureau of Economic Analysis from the U.S. Department of Commerce generated a revised series measuring economic activity in the newly defined metropolitan statistical area. The data was not available for the conference because of the federal government shutdown, so Hall referenced previous numbers in his presentation. The numbers he monitors include New Hanover, Brunswick and Pender counties.

With a conference focus on contract research organizations, Wilmington City Council member Laura Padgett read a proclamation signed by Mayor Bill Saffo declaring this week Clinical Research Week in Wilmington.

Through research services, contract research organizations (CROs) support biotechnology, pharmaceutical and medical device industries.

More than 20 contract research organizations are located in Wilmington, with four headquartered locally.

Speakers Dr. Tom Simpson with the Cameron School of Business, CEO Pat Walsh of AAIPharma and CEO David Simmons of PPD could not attend the conference in person, but spoke to the audience through videos.

“The CRO industry in Wilmington is an interesting model,” Walsh said during his video. “… We’re heavily investing in the Wilmington area with jobs and infrastructure.”

Compared to San Diego, Calif., Boston and other active pharmaceutical locations, the people network is strong, but the business network is not quite as strong in the Wilmington area, Walsh added.

More information and the economic outlook presentation is available on the Cameron School of Business website.


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