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Power in Partnership speaker offers 2019 economic outlook

SALISBURY — Thursday’s Power in Partnership breakfast kicked off the year with an economic outlook presented by Charles Dougherty, a vice president and economist with Wells Fargo Securities.

Dougherty started with some positive news, saying the economy should continue to grow in 2019.

“Our economy is doing pretty well right now,” he said. “We think the 2018 U.S. economy would have grown almost 3 percent. 2019, we think it’s still going to be solid economic growth, despite some slowing in moderation, easing of economic growth.”

He said volatility in the stock markets and consumer confidence and uncertainty about the economy during a partial government shutdown have caused economic growth to slow.

North Carolina and its big cities of Charlotte and Raleigh, though, have seen exceptional growth along with much of the Southeast economies, he said. He credits this partly to being a great place to live, having great climate, and having natural amenities with the mountains and beaches.

People and businesses are looking at these as positive factors when deciding whether to relocate.

“North Carolina represents a good affordability option,” Dougherty said. “Not just for people but for jobs.”

Other cities in North Carolina are starting to feel the positive impact of this growth as well, he said.

“We’re starting to see employment growth broaden to other areas that haven’t seen the employment growth that we’ve seen in these really big job centers in Raleigh and Charlotte,” Dougherty said. “You can see in Hickory, Winston-Salem, Greensboro, all these areas are doing really well as a consequence of really strong national growth (and) really strong growth at the state level too.”

He said this broadening and branching out ensures North Carolina will continue to do well if the economy slows down.

Looking ahead in 2019, Dougherty recommends looking at consumer spending as an indicator and asking a question: Are people spending in their means?

As the unemployment rate drops, Dougherty said, wages have not followed the rise of economic growth.

Another issue is rising interest rates in the housing market as it has slowed. A member of the audience Thursday said first-time homebuyers are struggling to purchase because of high student loan balances. Dougherty agreed that is an issue as well and said cities have begun looking into providing luxury apartments as substitutes to buying a home.

Mayor Pro Tem David Post asked Dougherty to expand on the impact the federal government shutdown will have on the economy. Dougherty said he thinks the economy will bounce back when the government reopens and the shutdown will only be for a portion of the first quarter, which extends until the end of March.

Dougherty said those interested in learning more about the economic outlook can visit wellsfargo.com/economics.

Next month’s Power in Partnership will be Feb. 21. The topic is the Empire Hotel.

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