Local economists say our region is still in better shape than the rest of the nation. They spoke about it today at UNCW's 5th Annual Economic Outlook Conference. With any prediction, change is always a factor, but with our current economic crisis, economists at UNCW said change for the better may not come fast enough. Each year, local business leaders look to economists like Woody Hall and Tom Simpson for guidance. "I don't think any forecaster is willing to forecaster beyond the next 18 months until a lot of the financial turmoil leaves the market," said Woody Hall, Senior Economist at UNCW. Now, more than ever, people are wondering when the whirlwind will end, and the economic climate settle. Both experts said there are still tough times ahead. "We are going through an experience that has not been encountered for more than seventy five years, and the strains on the system are extremely unusual," said Simpson. "The real estate sector has got to stabilize and also retail trade has got to stabilize." Hall said local real estate sales have dropped dramatically since 2005. The unemployment rate in Brunswick and Pender counties is higher than the national average, and growth in our area has slowed. But Hall claims not all news is bad. "On the upside, we have tourists coming down here in comparable numbers to what they were coming in the past. We also have air passenger traffic comparable to what it was in the past. So there are some sectors that are doing quite well." There may be a tough road ahead, but Hall and Simpson said there is still light at the end of the tunnel. Economists said our region can expect continued decline in the housing and retail market if our economy does not stabilize itself.
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