Steady economic gains are expected for South Carolina in 2017 despite the political uncertainty that comes with a new governor and a new president, according to University of South Carolina economists at the Darla Moore School of Business. They say the gains build on positive growth across most of the state’s industries and regions, but warn its economy is on “cruise control” rather than acceleration.
The business school’s research director Doug Woodward and economist Joseph Von Nessen presented their 2017 forecast Thursday to more than 150 of the state’s business and community leaders at the 36th Annual Economic Outlook Conference (EOC).
They reported that the state is poised to build on its existing momentum and to continue generating new jobs and rising incomes for South Carolinians. “This year I want to say that our economic forecast for South Carolina is looking very good,” Woodward said at the start of the program Thursday in Columbia.
“South Carolina’s economy is growing at a healthy pace,” said Von Nessen. “And we expect the state to continue to build on this momentum in 2017.”
They expect job creation, which they say is the single best predictor of economic performance, to grow 2.6 percent in 2017.
The state’s unemployment rate is low and the job market is strong. “We know for certain as we enter 2017 is that we have a growing economy reaching toward full employment. Our unemployment rate in South Carolina is now close to the lowest point it was in our last economic expansion,” said Woodward.
“Gov. Haley came into office with a priority to generate employment opportunities for South Carolinians during a period of high unemployment following the Great Recession,” Von Nessen said. “Lt. Gov. McMaster, by contrast, will likely inherit a healthier economy in which unemployment is relatively low, and a skills gap that prevents many workers from being hired.”
The economists said that the manufacturing and the professional and business services sectors were the fastest growing industries this year, having driven high-wage job creation throughout the state and supporting high rates of consumer spending.