Economist predicts continued job growth for area

York and Lancaster counties are seeing bullish growth, and residents should be expecting more to come, says a Wells Fargo economist.

York County’s influx of retirees from other states have been a driving force behind the county’s 6.1 percent population growth over the past year, senior economist Mark Vitner said at Friday’s Economic Forecast Breakfast at Winthrop University’s DiGiorgio Campus Center.

Meanwhile, Lancaster County has seen impressive job growth at 9.2 percent since last year, which Vitner ascribed to the state’s business-friendly attitude.

Meanwhile, Chester County should see job growth, thanks to Singapore-based Giti Tire’s new $560 million global facility in Richburg. Giti is building its first American plant in Chester County, with about 1,700 jobs expected over the coming decade.

“South Carolina has a knack for getting things done,” said Vitner. “Businesses that have relocated to South Carolina have, by and large, been successful and feed on itself.”

Shaky international markets haven’t seriously affected domestic growth, especially in Upstate South Carolina, said Vitner. Gross domestic product growth has been solid, but uninspiring, mostly due to reductions in inventories and less stability overseas, including the recent Brexit vote in the United Kingdom.

Vitner expects the Federal Reserve to raise the federal funds rate slightly this year and twice in 2017 and 2018. Should the economy remain steady, it will mark the first time since 2001 that the U.S. has gone a decade between recessions.

Still, Vitner warned the more than 100 business leaders and Winthrop professors Friday that recessions are difficult to track. He said low unemployment numbers and jobless claims can indicate a future market correction.

“The problem with being at the peak is that everything rolls downhill,” he said. “I don’t know if we’re at the peak. … I feel like if it’s a baseball game, we’re in the bottom of the 7th inning.”

Vitner said job growth has been strongest in the Pacific Northwest and in the Southeast, with South Carolina (2.3 percent) handily beating the U.S. average of 1.7 percent. Meanwhile, he says income growth the past year in South Carolina has risen 5.6 percent, well above the U.S. average of 4.4 percent.

By David Thackham, Staff Reporter with The Herald