Staff photo by Allison Potter
Richard Kaglic, a senior regional economist with the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond’s Charlotte branch, listens to Dr. Woody Hall after speaking at the annual economic forecast held by the Greater Wilmington Chamber of Commerce on Thursday, Jan. 9 at the Wilmington Convention Center.
The annual McGladrey Economic Forecast Breakfast held by the Greater Wilmington Chamber of Commerce discussed market trends at the national, state and local levels, with speakers telling the audience to expect little change from 2013.
Business leaders convened at the Wilmington Convention Center the morning of Jan. 9 for the chamber of commerce’s annual economic forecast presentation, which featured talks from Dr. Woody Hall, University of North Carolina Wilmington senior economist, and Richard Kaglic, a senior regional economist with the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond’s Charlotte branch.
Kaglic began his overview of national trends with a joking reference to the Bill Murray movie “Groundhog Day,” saying he felt like he was in a repeat of the 2013 forecast he delivered to the chamber.
“We’ve got a lot of business people and business analysts that are kind of upping their forecasts for 2014,” Kaglic said. “But at the same time … I see a lot of reasons for caution as well.”
He noted equity markets, home prices and consumer confidence are all up from 2013. But he added wages and income are not growing robustly.
Kaglic also said the federal government continued to pump stimulus money into the economy, but at a slower pace than during the recession.
“We have now seen household wealth in the U.S. surpass its prerecession high,” he said. “So I think people started to feel like the economy seems a little more capable of growing on its own, without the help of the federal government.”
Hall next took the microphone, displaying graphs that showed the Wilmington Metropolitan Statistical Area, recently redefined as New Hanover and Pender counties by the 2010 Census, as having better weathered the recession compared with Myrtle Beach, S.C., and Fayetteville, N.C.
“There were some declines in economic activity in the Wilmington MSA in 2010, but they were not very large,” Hall said. “I can’t say the recession had no impact, but I can say, I believe, that the major impact of the recession on this area was a slowing in the growth rate.”
Tourism has seen a rebound since the slowing of the economy, with collections for the county’s Room Occupancy Tax fund back to prerecession levels. Retail sales have also seen a return to prerecession levels.
Hall said employment in Southeast N.C. is looking up, with net additions to employment outpacing the statewide trend. Hiring in eight of the 10 largest sectors in the MSA increased in the past year, with employment in construction and public administration failing to bounce back as readily as healthcare, social assistance and professional and technical services.