Uncertainty over ‘Omicron’ variant could change North Carolina’s economic future

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RALEIGH – By some measurements, the economy is improving steadily, but the emergence of a new variant of the virus that causes COVID-19 may pose a significant risk to North Carolina’s economy.

According to a North Carolina State University index that tracks economic indicators to forecast the direction of the state’s economy four to six months in advance, little has changed between September and October. 2021.

The index fell 0.2% between September and October.

“The index suggests that the state’s labor market will continue to improve, with the creation of new jobs and the reduction in the unemployment rate,” said Dr. Michael Walden, William Neal Reynolds Emeritus Professor Emeritus at the North Carolina State University, in an interview with WRAL TechWire.

But the emergence of a new variant of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 adds uncertainty to future economic conditions in the state and the United States and around the world, Walden said.

Walden told WRAL TechWire in early September that the “Delta” variant also introduced uncertainty into future economic forecasts.

“The virus still has a lot to ‘say’ about the economy,” Walden said.

North Carolina economic index drops – ‘Delta’ obscures future projections

An example, according to Walden: when news of the emergence of the new variant, now named “omicron” by the World Health Organization, began to circulate around the world last week, after health experts public and medical staff expressed some uncertainty about the new variant. , the stock market plunged.

“So until we have good answers to these questions, the stock market – and by extension the economy – will be wobbly,” Walden said, noting that the index did not predict the coronavirus.

“The most important economic news for next week will actually be medical news on the omicron variant,” Walden said. “If the news is that the variant is not a ‘big deal’ for the United States, then we can be more confident that the economy will continue to improve.”

However, said Walden, if experts say that the omicron variant “could make it to the United States and be highly transmissible and deadly, then economic optimism will evaporate.” On Monday, November 29, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website noted that no cases of COVID-19 due to the Omicron variant had been identified in the county.

The index is down 2.1% year-on-year.

Mike Walden: Could a virus bring down the economy? You decide

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