After a “strong jump” last month in an economic index for North Carolina, NCSU economist Dr. Michael Walden says “2017 may shape up to be the best post-recessionary growth year” for the state.

“The Index took a strong jump in February,” Walden reports in his monthly summary.

“All components of the Index were higher. Improvement likely results from increased optimism about the national economy, strong population growth in North Carolina – especially in metro regions- and solid economic growth in the state during the past two years.”

Population up, jobless rate down

The latest Census data reported continuing strong growth in the Research Triangle region, for example.

North Carolina’s jobless rate, meanwhile, ticked down to 5.1 percent last month, according to U.S. Department of Labor statistics.

Given improvement in each sector of the index, the overall state score rose 1.7 percent, “far exceeding” national gains, Walden added.

“All components of the Index improved, with the strongest jumps occurring in building permits and manufacturing hours.”

The index also tracks hours worked, earnings and jobless claims.

More optimism

So what’s happening?

“The Index’s most recent reading broke out of a narrow range it had hovered within for over a year, suggesting that heightened optimism about the economy has emerged in the state,” Walden says.

For example, two recent surveys of corporate finance executives by Duke University and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants have shown the highest level of corporate enthusiasm in more than a decade.

“Some of this optimism is likely based on expected pro-growth policies emerging from Washington. But other optimism is derived from continued population growth – especially in the state’s metro regions – and a general acceleration in the state’s economy during the past two years.

“If these trends hold,” he predicts, “then 2017 may shape up to be the best post-recessionary growth year for North Carolina.”

Here’s a breakdown on Walden’s latest index data:

Index, chg. from prev. month; Chg. from prev. year

  • INDEX: 1.7%, 4.3%
  • ECRI-WLI: 0.3%, 12.5%
  • Claims: -1.2%, -12.0%
  • Permits: 5.0%, 27.0%
  • Hours: 3.0%, 2.7%
  • Earnings: 1.0%, 3.2%

About the index:

The Index is composed of five components: the Economic Cycle Research Institute (ECRI)’s Weekly Leading Index (, North Carolina initial claims for unemployment benefits, North Carolina building permits, average weekly hours of work of all North Carolina employees in manufacturing, and average weekly earnings of all North Carolina employees in manufacturing. All data are seasonally-adjusted and modified for differences in prices levels where appropriate. Data are from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. Census Bureau, and ECRI, whose permission to use their Weekly Leading Index is greatly appreciated. All calculations are done by Dr. Michael Walden.