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The Chamber Hosts Economic Outlook Forum

The Chamber Hosts Economic Outlook Forum

Member News CEO Statement Event Partnership for a Sustainable Community Connect Advocate

Renowned economist Dr. Michael Walden shares economic forecast and The Chamber CEO presents local economic survey results


Chapel Hill, NC - Yesterday, The Chamber hosted the Economic Outlook Forum, featuring renowned economist Dr. Michael L. Walden, who presented the state of the economy and shared his economic predictions for the year ahead. The Chamber President and CEO, Aaron Nelson, followed with a timely presentation on the annual economic conditions survey results, revealing local business leaders’ perspectives on the local economy and business climate.

Bottom Line


At the national, state, and regional level, 2018 was a good economic year according to Dr. Walden, who predicts continued growth in 2019 albeit slightly lower and riddled with potential recession triggers, including inflation and trade tensions. 

 At the local level, The Chamber's annual survey to local businesses revealed a majority predict strong to moderate growth, increased sales, and a steady-state with workforce (no increase or reduction).  

2018 Recap 

At the national level, GDP growth was a strong 3.2%, 2.6 million jobs were added, the jobless rate was down to 3.9%, and investment RT was 17.7%.
At the state level, North Carolina had a slower GDP growth rate than the nation, but faster growth rate with 100,000 net new jobs. Further, N.C. made progress against the two economic divides: middle-pay and rural area jobs, which had a faster growth rate than in recent years.
The Triangle outpaced the nation (1.8%) and the state (2.0%) in job growth rates with Raleigh-Cary at 3.2% and Durham-Chapel Hill at 2.4%.

Outlook for 2019

“In June 2019, the current expansion will be the longest in history,” said Dr. Michael Walden, but “will it go on?”
Walden predicts growth in 2019 (GDP 2.5%), but slower than 2018 (3.2%). He noted that the Federal Reserve has shifted its focus from growth to inflation and flagged that higher interest rates and faster debt growth could result in the interest on debt as a percentage of the budget doubling from 7% to 14% by 2028.

Local Perspective

The Chamber issues an annual economic conditions survey to the full membership, asking the same questions since 2008 to allow for year-over-year comparisons. The 2019 survey was issued in February 2019 with the following results:

  • Performance ProjectionsA majority (81.5%) expect their business to have strong to moderate growth in 2019.
  • Sales ProjectionsUp from last year, a majority (80.5%) predict an increase in sales in 2019.
  • Workforce ProjectionsA majority (54%) anticipate a steady-state (no increase or reduction) in workforce in 2019, and 44% anticipate hiring.
  • Wages Up from last year, a majority (71%) report that all employees earned a living wage ($13.70/hour) or more in 2018.
  • Business ClimateA dip from last year, but a majority still report the local government is somewhat or very pro-business.


About the Policy Series

The Chamber’s Government Affairs Committee coordinates the 2019 Policy Series. The series includes six forums, the most recent being the Economic Outlook Forum. The forums occur every-other-month and feature influential guest speaker(s) who address timely topics related to the economy, economic development, public policy, and local elections. The Series is sponsored by Cardinal Innovations Healthcare, Durham Tech, Haugh Realty Advisors, and Silverspot Cinema. 

About The Chamber 

The Chamber (The Greater Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce) is a membership organization that serves and advances the business interests of Greater Chapel Hill, including the Town of Carrboro and southern Orange, northern Chatham, and southwest Durham counties. The Chamber's network is growing with nearly 1,000-member enterprises that employ more than 95,000 workers throughout the region. Together with its network, The Chamber is committed to building a sustainable community where business thrives. Members count on the Chamber to connect them with key people, information, and resources; advocate for local business interests; promote members, community, and quality of life; and help members save money.


For questions, contact The Chamber Vice President for External Affairs, Katie Loovis, at 919-696-0781. 



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