May
22

Strand’s Economy to Drag This Summer, Analyst Says

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May 22, 2008

By Jessica Foster – The Sun News

The housing and financial markets have deteriorated more than most economists expected, meaning it could be a slow summer for parts of the Grand Strand’s economy, Coastal Carolina University research economist Don Schunk said Wednesday.

The economic downturn has led to a drop in consumer confidence and spending, and the two of them have only been exacerbated by soaring gas prices.

“I’m not nearly as optimistic now as I was six months ago,” Schunk said.

Still, he doesn’t think the Grand Strand is in a recession, and he doesn’t forecast one, either.

Though many economic indicators such as hotel occupancy rates, passenger numbers at the Myrtle Beach International Airport and home building permits are expected to be down from last year, there is still job growth, Schunk said.

A key factor in a recession is fewer jobs, and local numbers show that jobs increased from 158,100 in the first quarter of 2007 to 159,200 in the first quarter of this year, and that number should continue to rise through August.

“Locally and in general, we’re probably not going to see the job losses we saw seven to eight years ago” during the last recession, when there were manufacturing job losses across the state and the Grand Strand economy took a hit as families nixed their Myrtle Beach vacations.

Tourists are still expected to vacation on the Grand Strand this year, but they will likely shorten their stays and spend less money because of high gas prices. Prices have been reaching record highs daily for the past couple of weeks and averaged above $3.80 a gallon nationwide Wednesday – about 60 cents more a gallon than a year ago.

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