State’s economy moving along at good pace, observers say

Statehouse Report
December 16, 2016

Staff reports

South Carolina’s healthy economy might have leveled off a bit in 2016, but the next year will offer steady economic gains, according to economists.

“South Carolina’s economy is growing at a healthy pace,” University of South Carolina research economist Joseph Von Nessen said earlier this month at a conference. “And we expect the state to continue to build on this momentum in 2017.”

Job creation is expected to grow a strong 2.6 percent next year, according to Von Nessen and research director Doug Woodward.  A challenge, however, will be the need for more skilled, trained workers as the state’s 4.7 percent unemployment rate indicates a tightening of a talent pool, which could hinder growth.

Frank Knapp, president of the S.C. Small Business Chamber of Commerce, said while the economy appeared to be strong enough nationally for a raise in interest rates, small business start-ups were down.  He said he wasn’t sure of the impact that a new administration in Washington would have on small businesses, but a big national infrastructure investment could be positive.

“If it does move a big infrastructure program and South Carolina gets its fair share, that will put more money on the street, which will build consumer demand—the most important issue for small businesses,” Knapp said.

Adrienne Fairwell, spokesman for the S.C. Department of Commerce, said the agency typically doesn’t speculate about the economy ahead.  But things are looking pretty good right now.

“We have made great strides and look forward to building on the strengths of the state’s existing, small and emerging industries as well as increasing the available infrastructure in the state through workforce and community development,” she said.  “All of these items help to fuel the economic engine; therefore, we see nothing but an increasing, positive trend forward for South Carolina.”

Clemson University economist emeritus Bruce Yandle projected that 2017 would look better nationally than 2016.  Not only did he expect overall growth of 2.2 percent, but he said in a December quarterly report that inflation and interest rates would rise.  Housing would continue to be strong and manufacturing would increase some.

Yandle also pointed to data that showed South Carolina to be one of the nation’s top areas for cutting-edge manufacturing activity, which bodes well for future economic activity.  South Carolina also was one of three Southern states to be among those with top leading indicators of for future growth, according to data by the Federal Reserve of Philadelphia.

“We are seeing strong job growth within the professional service sectors as well as within aerospace, automotive and tire manufacturing,” Von Nessen said. “Each of these industries is creating jobs that pay significantly above the state average. In turn, these workers are spending their wages in South Carolina and thus creating additional economic activity.”


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