At the Chamber’s 2023 Economic Forecast, we unveiled the new Beaufort Bright Spots Video, updated the Regional Prosperity Dashboard, and heard a fascinating Economic Update on labor participation, interest rates and more from keynote speaker Laura Ullrich, Ph.D., senior economist covering the Carolinas for the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond. Here are five big themes from this year’s regional data:

1. GROWING – It’s no surprise that we’re adding people. The current estimate is that our region will roughly 5,000 over the next 5 years, taking our area population from 82,000 to 87,000 by 2027. That equates to a 1.1% annual growth rate. For comparison, that is equal to the State as a whole and slower than almost everywhere else in coastal South Carolina. Our growth is manageable. We must manage it well.

2. AGING – Our region is younger than Beaufort County as a whole, but our median age is projected to rise at a faster rate over the next 5 years. That means we’re getting older faster, which also means our labor participation rate is likely to drop further. Don’t expect competition for workforce to abate any time soon.

3. MISSING – Our region is missing more than 5,000 prime working age individuals. We trail the state significantly in percentage of population aged 35-54, often the folks who start, grow and lead businesses. That represents a big missing workforce. Over the next five years, our prime working age gap remains and our percentage over age 65 is projected to grow significantly.

4. LAGGING – Our median household income, which includes all money from all earners and sources including wages, pensions, 401k distributions, etc., is growing at a healthy rate but still trails the Nation, State and County medians. On the personal wage earnings side, we’re moving in the right direction, but much more slowly. There is only one prescription for this malady: economic development and diversification. We must continue growing jobs and expanding higher wage sectors like manufacturing and technology.

5. CONNECTED – Beaufort County is a more connected labor market than we might think. Roughly 12,500 people wake up and work in the Beaufort region. About 10,300 people drive to our region every day, mostly from southern Beaufort County and Jasper County. About 13,000 people wake up in this region and drive out for work, mostly to jobs in southern Beaufort County. We’re a connected, countywide labor force and with shared infrastructure challenges.

Visit our website to access all slides and materials from the 2023 Economic Forecast.