Friday, February 24, 2012

Wells Fargo report: Carolinas' economy improving

The economic recovery is gaining steam in the Southeast as construction losses subside and sectors such as manufacturing improve, a new report from Wells Fargo & Co. found.

Wells economists' Regional Chartbook found activity picked up last year in the region, which has lagged other parts of the country due to fallout from the housing bust, particularly in Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas.

"While North Carolina did not get as overbuilt as many other parts of the country, the building boom got started a little later there, and activity topped out about a year after it did nationwide," the report said.

Yet a recovery in the region has finally taken hold, the economists said, citing strong industrial development activity in places like Raleigh and Charleston, S.C., and overall improvement in tourism, international trade, life sciences and manufacturing.

Population growth picked up last year in the Carolinas, too, as hiring increased and more retirees moved to the area. Overall, Charlotte has taken longer to bounce back than other Carolinas metros, with unemployment remaining high, particularly in surrounding counties, which saw massive job losses in manufacturing and construction.

The economists expect the recovery to continue this year. They expect stronger technology, life sciences, tourism and trade sectors, with negative real estate news decreasing.

Yet residential and commercial construction is "still a long way off from making a major positive contribution to economic growth," the report said.