Economist: Rosy Picture For NC, US In Next Five Years
CHAPEL HILL – The unemployment rate is still high and the recovery is still slow, but one prominent Triangle economist says the outlook for the next five years is very, very good.
“Despite everything that’s going on Washington (and) everything that’s yet to go on…the underlying fundamentals of the economy are dramatically improved,” says Michael Walden, professor of economics at NC State. Walden delivered the keynote address Wednesday at the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce’s annual Economic Outlook Briefing.
The U.S. economy lost nine million jobs and six percent of its GDP during the “great recession” of 2008-09, but Walden says things have turned around on both fronts. The national gross domestic product is now above pre-recession levels—and the country has regained about six million new jobs, a trend Walden says is likely to continue.
“We had a very good jobs report last week, and I think that’s going to be more the standard rather than the exception,” he says.
In fact, Walden says he expects the country to add about 250,000 new jobs each month for the rest of the year—three million new jobs in the next 12 months, enough to bring the number of jobs in the U.S. back to where it was in January of 2008.
The recession hit especially hard here in North Carolina, where the unemployment rate spiked into double digits for nearly three years. Walden says given the history of past economic slumps, that was actually to be expected.
“We have a bumpier economic ride,” he says. “We tend to have deeper recessions (because) we’re still more of a manufacturing state…and manufacturers always take it on the chin during recessions, because people can postpone buying manufacturing products…
“But the upside of our bumpy ride is (that) we tend to have better recoveries.”
North Carolina hasn’t seen that better recovery yet, Walden says—we’ve added jobs at about the same rate as the nation as a whole—but Walden says that’s going to change, beginning this year.
“We’re going to see a big boost to North Carolina’s economy, starting this year,” he says. “In the next five years, (we’ll see) at least 400,000 net new jobs coming to North Carolina…(with the) unemployment rate at the end of five years down near six percent.”
Walden says he projects North Carolina to add 90,000 new jobs in 2013 alone, up from 65,000 last year. That would drop the state’s unemployment rate to 8.2 percent by year’s end.
Walden’s predictions are optimistic, but even he says the employment picture isn’t entirely rosy: the state and the country are gaining jobs, but many of those are low-paying jobs in the service sector—a sign of what Walden calls a “dumbbell economy.”
“(That means) fast job growth on the high end, in terms of high skills (and) high pay, but also fast growth on the low end–low skills (and) low pay,” he says. “A lot of those middle income jobs have been replaced by technology.”
Still, Walden says the overall economic outlook is strong, locally as well as nationally—and he says the Triangle is poised to be one of the fastest-growing regions in the state in the next five years.
If that prediction holds, it can’t come too soon for local businesses. Chamber president Aaron Nelson says in the last year, with the economy still sluggish and money still tight, more local business owners have reported feeling the pressure of the recession—in spite of the recovery on paper.
News Around Town: Awards
The teachers who ultimately receive these awards have a difficult test to pass. Each require an A-plus in being able to “ignite enthusiasm for learning…create an exceptional learning environment for all students… (and serve as) a role model” for students and other members of the community—no small accomplishment. This year, the Public School Foundation is awarding two Teaching Chairs: the Upper Elementary Chair for Excellence in Teaching Innovation at the grade-5 level, and the Zora Rashkis Chair for Excellence in Teaching Middle School Language Arts. Honorees receive $1,000 per year for two to three years.
If you’d like to nominate a teacher, visit PublicSchoolFoundation.org. Nominations are due by January 31.
The Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce is seeking nominations by Friday afternoon for its annual Business of the Year awards.
Each year the Chamber recognizes area businesses that demonstrate “growth, innovation, customer service, response to adversity, and contribution to the community.” There are four categories: small business, mid-size business, large business, and non-profit. Winners will be announced at the Chamber’s annual meeting later this month.
If you’d like to nominate a business or non-profit, visit CarolinaChamber.org. Nominations are due by Friday at 5:00 p.m.
True Community in a Transient Town
Though I’ve been in the Chapel Hill area for over 25 years, I only began getting involved in the community a few years ago when I attended “Leadership Chapel Hill” through the Chamber of Commerce. I thoroughly enjoyed that class, learned a ton, and met lots of wonderful people. From there I plugged into the “Chapel Hill Leads Group,” have been to some Chamber events, and attend “Friends of Downtown Chapel Hill” when I am able.
I would imagine that my experience with really getting to know Chapel Hill is shared by many others. We come for what we think will be a season (graduate school, a fellowship, an internship, a first job), but soon our time is over and many of us leave. We have little time to see the Town’s inner workings, and little opportunity to connect with people who actually live and work here. Some of us stay, but our busy jobs and families tend to keep us on the fringe. For some, the lack of connection leaves us isolated, lonely, and bitter.
Local churches provide an enormous service to the town of Chapel Hill in creating and building meaningful community. One aspect of the vision of our church (like many others in the area) is to help make the connection between the longer term Chapel Hill residents and those who are here only for a season. Each year new people come through our doors and soon find themselves getting to know older members, singles, married people and their kids. And each year dear friends walk their commencement aisles, pack up their vans and say goodbye. We have mentored young doctors, counseled young married couples, connected singles, and brought meals to beleaguered moms and dads.
But true gospel community goes deeper than just mentorship and meals. Its basis is a common relationship with a living Person—Jesus Christ. United to Christ, Christians share a most important commonality: We are brothers and sisters, bound in covenant to one another across racial, socio-economic and gender lines. The Apostle Paul’s letter to the Ephesian church captures this vision of Christian community in chapter 4, verses 15-16: “…speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament [i.e., each person], grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”
“That’s all well and good, but the baby’s crying, I don’t know anyone in my apartment complex, and I’m nursing a grudge against that jerk in my lab. My dissertation is languishing. This neighborhood is changing. I feel disconnected and forgotten.”
Christians believe that only God’s grace in Christ can provide lasting answers to these very real trials. True Christian community recognizes the difficulties but is empowered to then roll up the sleeves and go to work (Titus 2:11-12). Initiative replaces lethargy. Honest and loving speech elbows out the gossip and put-downs (Ephesians 4:29). Forgiveness is asked for and offered (Colossians 3:13). And over time a new hope is born—hope that the sin that splinters communities and wrecks relationships really does have an antidote in Christ, and that the community we now know in part, through the church, will one day be fully realized.
There is much room for growth! There are so many people who come to Chapel Hill and never get connected meaningfully to true community. It is our hope and prayer that the churches of Chapel Hill can be safe harbors of community that connect the riches of Christ to the realities of life.
Question for further reflection: How can churches help reach out to those who are only in Chapel for a season? How can we not only help them get the most out of our community, but also give back to the community?
Byron is a pastor of Christ Community Church in Chapel Hill (www.cccpca.org). Christ Community is a congregation rooted in biblical, historic Christianity and affiliated with the Presbyterian Church in America. They meet each Sunday at Extraordinary Ventures on S. Elliot Road. Byron is married to Ruby Bea and they have 4 children. He enjoys rock climbing, yard work and biking.
Dock to Door: Fresh seafood from Carolina fishermen delivered weekly
Memo: Summer is almost over.
I’m bummed about this reality check. While most of you chapelboro.com readers escaped to Pawleys Island or Topsail at some point this season, this little piggy stayed home. I might not have road tripped it to the beach nearly as much as I wanted, but I was sorta productive, and I have the pasty white skin to prove it.
A few big projects kept me indoors this summer. Amongst other things, I launched a biz that should be on the radar of every food-lovin’ person in the Piedmont, Dock to Door. Dock to Door is a fresh seafood delivery/distribution service based here in Chapel Hill. I saw the need to connect friends and neighbors with restaurant quality fresh seafood from the boats of Carolina fishermen, and I jumped. The idea is simple: make super-fresh seafood available to folks in the Triangle on a weekly basis.
HOW IT WORKS
- Visit docktodoorseafood.com and order online by 10pm Wednesday evening.
- Pay for your order online. You’ll receive e-confirmation of your order.
- Pick up your order at 3Cups in Chapel Hill on Friday evening between 5pm – 7pm.
ZZIIIING! Fresh seafood from North Carolina fishermen will be on the table in no time!
Preparing your seafood couldn’t be easier! In addition to including recipes with each item online, I bring several each week as takeaways for customers needing additional inspiration.
Last week shrimp stole the show, people couldn’t buy enough of those gorgeous 16/20s for just $13. Plenty of you chapelboro.com readers picked up a pound or two so I’m curious…without channeling Bubba, what are some of your favorite ways to prepare shrimp?