What's the 2012 economic outlook?

Probably the most frequent question people are asking about 2012 is whether the economy will improve, and N.C. State University economist Mike Walden says he thinks it will.

“In fact I think the evidence indicates now the economy is beginning to pick up a little steam. I think there are two reasons for that: One, household finances — which were absolutely devastated by the recession — are in much better shape, specifically debt payments. Debt payments out of paychecks as a percent of paychecks, if you will, are now back to 1990 levels. That’s very important, because that means that households will feel better about spending money.

“Secondly, the housing market appears to be improving. Housing inventories, which is a key number, have dropped. They’re now only about a month higher than average. Housing prices, although there are many measures of housing prices, most of them show some nearness, if you will, to stability.

“So those are two good factors in the economy. I think nationally, for example, we will create about 2 million jobs this year. I think in North Carolina, look for maybe 50,000 jobs, which will be more than twice what we created in 2011.

“Still though, the economy is an issue. Still with all these improvements in 2012, expect that we’re not going to be back, especially in the job market, to pre-recessionary levels.”

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