The University of North Carolina Wilmington was presented with a proclamation of “Clinical Research Week in Wilmington,” the University announced today. Also released this morning was Cameron School of Business Professor William W. Hall’s 2014 Wilmington economic forecast, which predicts a positive growth rate for the forthcoming year. Both announcements came out of the OUTLOOK: Building Economic Clusters Conference, an annual event (previously known as the Economic Outlook Conference) focused on the economic vitality of Wilmington.
“Clinical Research Week” was established by the City Council to recognize the collaboration in the Wilmington area among UNCW, the North Carolina Biotechnology Center Southeastern Office, and the N.C. Coast Clinical Research Initiative. Councilwoman Laura Padgett presented the proclamation at the event attended by local researchers, business owners and realtors.
“Over the past decade, this area has grown to become a hub for scientific research,” said Rebecca Porterfield, Associate Dean of the Cameron School of Business. “We have received great community support for our scientific and clinical research, which is important to our undergraduate and graduate students, as well as our faculty and staff. Research is a key element in continuing to raise the school’s national profile, and is also vital to growing our local economy.”
The Wilmington area, which includes Brunswick, New Hanover and Pender Counties, should expect an economic growth of 2.5 percent during 2014. This will be the first year since 2010 that the local economy will likely grow at the same rate as the nation, which is expected to rise by 2.3 percent.
“The output growth over next year will likely not be strong enough to cause an appreciable reduction in the area unemployment rate,” said Hall. “Historical data shows that real output must grow at least 3 percent per year to keep the unemployment rate stable.”
The most recent unemployment data shows in July 2013 seasonally adjusted rates of 9.9 percent in Brunswick County, 8.7 percent in New Hanover County, 10 percent in Pender County, 8.9 percent in the state, and 7.4 percent in the nation. Although down from July 2012, area rates are substantially above their 2007 levels, the last year prior to the beginning of the 2008-09 national recession.
On the downside, the Wilmington area unemployment rate has been above 8.5 percent since year-end 2008. This is the longest period of time that the rate been this high since the mid-1980s.
Employment growth during the current recovery has been very weak compared to the same during the expansion following the 2001 recession. Four years following the end of the 2008-09 recession, employment in the MSA is 4 percent higher, compared to 26 percent higher for the comparable period following the 2001 recession and 6 percent following the 1990-91 recession.
William W. (Woody) Hall, professor of economics and senior economist with the H. David and Diane Swain Center for Business and Economic Services at the UNC Wilmington Cameron School of Business, works in collaboration with Dr. Ravija Badarinathi, professor of statistics and chair of the UNCW Department of Information Systems and Operations Management. The business school professors note that information on more detailed measures of area economic activity shows mixed trends, and caution that this forecasted growth assumes no major tropical event or terrorism act for the forecast period. Such unpredictable events could have a significant negative impact on the regional economy. It also assumes that there is a fairly quick resolution to the current impasse in the nation’s capital over ongoing federal government operations.
Following a substantial decline over 2005-2008, the local residential real estate sector has stabilized, with both prices and sales volume apparently having bottomed out. Six years ago, the residential real estate sector supported as much as 20 percent of total employment in the area. At the bottom of the market, that percentage had dropped by at least one-half.
After falling over 2008 and 2009, area retail sales rebounded sharply over 2010-12 and have continued to grow through mid-2013. For the year ending June 2013 (July 2012-June 2013), sales are up 7.1 percent in Brunswick County, 2.9 percent in New Hanover County, 2.5 percent in Pender County, and 2.4 percent statewide. On an annual basis, sales have rebounded to pre-recession levels.
Passenger traffic fell between 2010 and 2011 at the Wilmington International Airport and did not change appreciably between 2011 and 2012. This traffic has grown over the past six months. Container tonnage at the state port facilities in Wilmington saw rather large increases from 2009–2011 but fell in 2012 and has continued to decline through the first half of 2013.
The University of North Carolina Wilmington, the state’s coastal university, is dedicated to learning through the integration of teaching and mentoring with research and service. A public institution with nearly 14,000 students, our university is widely acknowledged for its superb faculty and staff and its powerful academic experience that stimulates creative inquiry, critical thinking, thoughtful expression and responsible citizenship. With an array of high-quality programs at the baccalaureate and master’s levels, and doctoral programs in marine biology and educational leadership, UNCW is continuously recognized at a national level for academic excellence and affordability. We are dedicated to offering a community rich in diversity and inclusion, global perspectives, and enriching the quality of life through scholarly community engagement in such areas as health, education, the economy, the environment, marine and coastal issues, and the arts.