North Carolina’s economy is poised for continued growth in 2008 but at a slower rate than this year, according to John Connaughton, an economist at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

In a quarterly economic forecast issued Tuesday, Connaughton forecast 3.1 percent in growth for 2007 compared with 2.5 percent for 2008. Connaughton’s report cited recent turmoil in the banking and housing markets and increased energy prices as having an impact on consumer confidence and spending as 2007 comes to a close.

Citing quarterly growth figures of 2.5, 3.4, 3.3 and 2.0 percent, Connaughton described the economy in 2007 as delivering a “roller coaster performance” resulting from “a couple of dramatic events.” Those were increased gasoline prices and the mortgage crisis.

“Taken together, these two factors are likely to slow North Carolina [gross state product] growth during the fourth quarter of 2007 and the first quarter of 2008,” he wrote in the report.

As a result, first-quarter growth in 2008 could dip to 1.9 percent.

The North Carolina economy has reported growth dating back to November 2001, making the current streak 72 months. The growth could continue toward the record of longest expansion – 120 months set in the 1990s, Connaughton added. However, he expressed a note of caution.

“Today, the economy is in the position to go either way,” he said.

“If the ‘Fed’ is successful in alleviating the credit problem, it is possible for the economy to rebound from the expected sluggish performance during late 2007 and early 2008 and continue to expand and rival the length of the 1990s record,” Connaughton explained, noting actions of the Federal Reserve, such as cutting interest rates.

Even though the state’s economy struggled as 2007 came to a close, the annual growth rate is still expected to reach 3.1 percent compared with 2.5 percent in 2006.

By sector, Connaughton forecast strongest growth in 2008 in mining (10.6 percent) followed by finance, insurance and real estate (5.8 percent), services (5.1 percent), wholesale trade (4.8 percent) and government (4 percent).

Growth will be slower in agriculture (2.5 percent), construction (1.3 percent) transportation, warehousing, utilities and information (1.1 percent), nondurable goods manufacturing (0.9 percent) and retail trade (0.5 percent).

Job growth should top 2 percent with a net increase of employment by 83,900, Connaughton added.