looks to be a big year. Of course, politics will be front and center, with national and presidential elections and – here in North Carolina – gubernatorial, council of state and all seats in the General Assembly up for grabs. I doubt there will be a day in the year when we won’t see a political ad of some kind.

Of course, my focus is the economy, so what kind of economic news should we be watching as the year progresses? Just as with the political scene, let me divide my ideas between the national level and then here at home in North Carolina.

Front and center in the national economy will be the question of whether a recession will be avoided. The national economy is now in record territory for the current economic expansion that began after the Great Recession of . This alone has made many people worried that we are due for a recession.

I don’t agree. I don’t think there’s anything natural about a recession occurring every X number of years.

Still, what should you look for during the year to indicate the economy continues to be on steady ground? First and foremost, watch the job market. If the national economy generates job growth of between 120,000 and 150,000 net new jobs each month, then that should inject enough new earnings into workers’ pockets for them to sustain spending.

Another important economic factor to watch nationally is the status of the country’s trade disputes. There was optimism about these disputes at the end of . Congressional leaders announced they would push for approval of the new NAFTA, now called the USMCA (U.S., Mexico, Canada Agreement). We should know if this happens early in . If it does, it should boost both broad economic growth in the country as well as job growth.

Nevertheless, there are some distinct differences between the national and our state’s economies. More of North Carolina’s economy is tied to manufacturing, and manufacturing has been hard hit by the trade wars, particularly between the U.S. and China. Hence, if the trade wars head toward resolution in , this should be a big plus for North Carolina. Also, if the USMCA does indeed take effect in , North Carolina’s auto parts industry and the state’s farmers should be winners.

North Carolina had a good year for job growth in , but I look for that progress to slacken slightly in . If the state generates an average of 5,000 net new payroll jobs monthly in , North Carolina should be on track for another growth year.

Then, of course, there’s always the anticipation of a major mega announcement of a new game-changing firm coming to our state. Maybe might finally be the year for North Carolina to land an auto assembly plant. I don’t know, but I’ll certainly be watching.

Hopefully, keeping your eyes on these headlines will help you decide where our collective and personal economies are headed in . And, as always, Happy New Year!

Mike Walden

El Dr. Mike Walden es un profesor universitario con el distinguido reconocimiento William Neal Reynolds, el más alto honor abierto a los docentes de la Facultad de Economía Agrícola y de Recursos de...

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