RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. — Like a lonely voice vainly crying in the wilderness for attention, UNC Charlotte economist John Connaughton bucked conventional wisdom about the economy on Tuesday.

No recession, Connaughton said in his quarterly forecast.

Even as Wall Street panics, economic reporters around the world tout gloom and doom and politicians rant and rave about reform and studies, Connaughton spoke forth in reasoned tones.

The sky is NOT falling. The U.S. is NOT doomed. The North Carolina economy is NOT stagnant.

“Despite the fact that for the past several months many economists have been suggesting that the economy will fall into recession, this has not happened, and many of the factors that caused the slowdown are now either stable or on the rebound,”

Even though gasoline prices spiked because of Hurricane Ike, Connaughton noted that the longer-term energy picture is helping the economy.

“With the bounce created by the stimulus package, reinforced by the decline in oil prices, and (with) improvement in consumer confidence, it is likely that the rebound that began in the second quarter will continue through 2008,” he explained.

Good grief, is the man insane? No, he’s not. He crunches numbers and reviews surveys, such as a recent one indicating consumer confidence is improving. And when people feel better about their personal economic situations, they spend more money.

Unfortunately, N.C.’s growth rate will be less this year than a year ago, and the unemployment rate will remain well above 6 percent, Connaughton said.

But in 2009, he expects the state’s economy to grow. And some new jobs will be added.

“Seven of the state’s 11 economic sectors are forecast to experience growth during 2009,” Connaughton reported. “The sectors with the strongest expected growth forecasts are services with a projected real growth rate of 5.7 percent; wholesale trade with a projected real growth rate of 4.2 percent; government with a projected real growth rate of 3 5 percent; and transportation, warehousing, utilities, and information (TWUI), also with a projected real growth rate of 3.5 percent.

“Three other sectors are expected to experience growth, but at a rate less than the overall growth rate of 2.5 percent. These sectors are finance, insurance and real estate (FIRE) with a projected real growth rate of 2.0 percent; retail trade with a projected real growth rate of 1.4 percent; and agriculture with a projected real growth rate of 0.7 percent.”

The downside?

“Four sectors: durable goods manufacturing, nondurable goods manufacturing, construction, and mining are expected to experience declines in output during 2009,” he explained.

The jobs picture isn’t that strong, either.

“Only five of the state’s ten nonagricultural sectors of the economy are expected to experience positive employment growth during 2008,” he said. “The sectors expected to display the strongest employment growth rates in 2008 are services at 2.1 percent, retail trade at 1.7 percent, and FIRE at 1.5 percent.”

However, note that Connaughton didn’t forecast gloom and doom. He didn’t threaten to jump from Charlotte’s Bank of America tower. He sees hope.

Maybe you should, too.