South Carolina's economy will continue to grow this year, but it will be more measured than in recent years.
Four economists visiting the Charleston area recently agreed the good times will continue across the Palmetto State.
"Slow and steady" is the forecast for 2018 from University of South Carolina research economist Joey Von Nessen.
"If you liked 2017, you'll probably like 2018 as well," Von Nessen recently told a gathering of Charleston real estate professionals.
Charleston economist Stephen Slifer with NumberNomics said the economy is "better than ever" and doesn't foresee a recession until at least 2022.
The only disruption could be if there is an error in federal policies, but economists don't expect that to happen.
"We don't see any economic metric that concerns us at this point," Von Nessen said. "We are expecting a positive rate of growth."
'Pretty good year'
Other economists agreed.
"Economic expansions don’t die of old age," Frank Rainwater, executive director of the S.C. Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office, told a Berkeley Chamber of Commerce gathering recently. "So the forecast is we will continue to grow as we have been growing."
Economist Bruce Yandle of George Mason University, a former professor at Clemson University, was also optimistic.
"If you had positive cash flows in 2017 and felt like it was a pretty good year, then you ought to feel pretty good about 2018 and 2019," Yandle said.
The glowing assessments stem from a variety of factors. Among them, USC's Von Nessen pointed to global economic growth which has led to more manufacturers setting up shop in the Palmetto State and particularly Charleston with its deep-water port.
Employment and wage growth increased last year, but construction work tapered off, mainly struck by a price hike in wood after the U.S. placed tariffs on Canadian lumber.
The Charleston region continues to match the Upstate in robust economic growth, Von Nessen said.
With the state at near-full employment, labor shortages are rising and causing employers to boost wages, invest in efforts to train and keep employees or look for new technologies to increase productivity.
"They want to prevent (employees) from leaving and being poached by competing companies," Von Nessen said.
As for housing, the USC economist said people are spending more on more pricier places to live.
"We are seeing a shift toward more expensive houses because of employment and wage growth," he said.
Rainwater noted the Nov. 6 elections could affect national policy and the state. He pointed out that since 1934, mid-term elections have almost always meant losses in Congress for the president’s party. That could affect Donald Trump’s ability to continue to push his economic agenda.
"History is not on the side of President Trump," Rainwater said.
Yandle included some of the changes that Trump has championed in what he called the foundation stones for economic growth this year.
"We've got this sleepwalking (national) economy that doesn't seem to want to speed up, but there are forces at play that suggest things could accelerate," he said.
He expects more investment because of lower corporate tax rates, the new ability to write off investments more quickly and significant loosening of environmental regulations.
"There is real action despite all the noise we hear," he said.
'Boom is back'
Another big plus for manufacturing is expanded trade markets. Yandle calls it "synchronous world growth," meaning economic expansion in all the major trade markets at once.
"We did not have that a year ago," Yandle said. "The world’s trading economy is looking stronger."
Another cause for optimism is the continuing drop in the price of natural gas, which makes manufacturing cheaper.
"We will continue to have a revolution in the cost of industry," he said.
Yandle doesn’t see the 2.9 percent growth in production that the Trump administration says is needed to make up for recent tax reform. He comes fairly close, though, with a 2.7 percent prediction.
"The outlook is bright," he said.
If Slifer's prediction about a recession comes true, it would be the longest period of economic expansion in U.S. history. The last recession ended in June 2009.
Slifer predicts federal tax reform signed into law in December will spur new business investment, creating jobs and driving the economy forward for a long time.
"This is going to spur investment spending for years," he said.
Rising consumer sentiment, low mortgage rates, steady gasoline prices, high employment, rising home sales and low vacancy rates on rental properties will all contribute to more economic growth, Slifer said.
"The boom is back," he added. "It doesn't get much better."