Mike Walden has created a monthly index that forecasts how North Carolina's economy will perform over the next four to six months.

Charting NC’s Economic Future

April 6, 2011

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It’s no surprise that the national economy is on everyone’s mind. But when it comes to the future of the North Carolina economy, no one is paying more attention than Mike Walden.

Walden, the William Neal Reynolds Distinguished Professor of Agricultural and Resource Economics, wrote the book on the North Carolina economy – literally. And last year he came up with something new: a monthly index that forecasts how North Carolina’s economy will perform over the next four to six months.

“The idea,” says Walden, “is to have something specific to North Carolina to give us some inkling as to where the state economy is headed.”

Michael Walden

Michael Walden

This is no idle academic exercise. Being able to chart North Carolina’s economic future has very practical applications for public policy and the business community. For example, this information can influence discussion among legislators about what steps need to be taken to bolster the state economy. By the same token, North Carolina businesses can use the index to help make informed decisions about future growth – such as whether to hire additional workers.

The most recent update is good news for the Old North State, with the index at its highest level in three years. Walden publishes an updated indicator each month that reflects what happened the previous month. The March index went up significantly, due in large part to a February increase in building permits and a decrease in unemployment claims.

And these numbers aren’t a fluke. Walden’s index has been trending upward since spring of 2009. While it may be moving slowly, the economy is moving in the right direction.

The latest index, and an archive of previous indices, is available on Walden’s homepage.