Member's Perspective on the 2020 Economic Outlook Conference

Written by Maggie Wickey, Public Relations and Communications Manager, South Carolina Federal Credit Union

Wednesday marked the return of one of my favorite events in Charleston. Not the Wine + Food Festival (though that’s also a great event), but the Economic Outlook Conference from the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce.

This annual event brings together Charleston’s business community for an update on what’s happening in our region and a forecast of what we should expect in terms of job growth, tourism, home sales and other key metrics over the next couple years.

To compile this forecast, the Chamber’s Center for Business Research tracks historical data, gathers information on several key economic indicators and shares it with the College of Charleston School of Business. An economic forecasting model develops a projection for each indicator, also taking into account national factors. Finally, local business leaders from every major economic sector add insight that may not be captured in a statistical model, providing a holistic outlook for the coming year.

Attending this event always gives me a better understanding of our local economy and what factors are shaping Charleston’s future. This year, three key metrics caught my attention:

Home sales.

More homes were sold in the Charleston Metro area in 2019 than expected. Low mortgage rates, the attractiveness of life in the Lowcountry and low unemployment all helped the local housing market exceed expectations. In 2019, the average sales price of a house in the Charleston area was $365,989, and the median sales price was $277,500. Both of those numbers are forecasted to increase over the next two years.

In fact, the National Association of Realtors named the Charleston region one of the “Top Ten Outperforming Metro Markets for the Next 3-5 Years.” As someone who hopes to become a homeowner in the next year or two, these factors are encouraging me to look sooner rather than later to take advantage of competitive rates and hopefully buy before prices increase.

Unemployment rate.

The unemployment rate in the Charleston area was around 2.5 percent in 2019, a record annual low. The amount of employed residents grew by about 10,000, with the most job growth occurring in the construction, transportation/utilities and leisure/hospitality sectors. Low unemployment means that residents who want to participate in the workforce have the opportunity to do so, and that young professionals can be confident in finding work.

For employers, the competition for talent is fierce. Experts forecast that in 2020, the unemployment rate will hover around 2 percent on average. More than 2,000 jobs are expected to be added to the market over the next several years, in fields like logistics, IT and customer service. If you expect to be job hunting in 2020 or 2021, you should have plenty of options to choose from.

Airport activity.

The Charleston International Airport saw 4.8 million passengers in 2019, another record-breaking year. Last year also brought Charleston’s first nonstop transatlantic flight – a British Airways flight direct to London. It seems that airlines are adding new flights every day; about 180 flights are now arriving and departing from our airport daily.

This is exciting growth as more flights give us more options for travelling direct. As someone who avoids layovers at all costs, I’ll take all the options I can get.

I left the event feeling confident about what’s happening in Charleston. Though there are some factors weighing on the national economy – Coronavirus, trade and our upcoming election, for example – that will undoubtedly have an impact on our region, we have a lot of reasons to be optimistic.

Check out the full Regional Economic Forecast. If you haven’t been to an Economic Outlook event yet, put it on your list for next year – you won’t regret it.

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