First quarter review, insights into county’s business landscape

Published 3:10 pm Friday, May 17, 2024

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

As expected, the economy in Beaufort County experienced a slowdown in the first quarter of 2024 due in part to a seasonal drop in tourism and a post-holiday decline in consumer spending. Winter layoffs across the tourism, hospitality, and retail sectors further contributed to the economic cooldown.

As a result, unemployment has risen from 3.5% to 4.1%, with 794 residents of Beaufort County now unemployed. The state unemployment level is 3.5%.

Reports on state taxable sales in Beaufort County show a drop in consumer spending from $60 million in January to $55 million in February and $54 million in March. This indicates a 10% reduction in consumer spending primarily on larger-cost items, including vehicles, furniture, and building materials.

Beaufort County’s housing market continues to favor sellers. 2024 data shows a 10% increase in median home prices; eighty homes were on the market at the end of March 2024, down from 83 in December, with eighty-six homes sold year to date. Notably, all homes sold in the first three months were at or below the asking price, with only three selling higher than the asking price. Homes spent an average of 78 days on the market.

A recent Pamlico Business Resource Center survey of local businesses indicates that most local small businesses are struggling to achieve business growth. With over 35% of these businesses operating for less than three years, the post-COVID-19 small business environment appears dynamic yet potentially precarious.

Local businesses also reported facing several challenges, notably recruiting and retaining skilled workers. High operating costs, regulatory hurdles, and competition from online businesses compound these difficulties. The lingering effects of the pandemic, including shifts in customer demand and disruptions in the supply chain, continue to impact small business operations.

However, there’s notable optimism among the local business community regarding future prospects. Many business owners express confidence in the region’s economic potential, underscoring the community’s resilience and entrepreneurial ethos, previously reported by the Pamlico Business Resource Center.

The Pamlico Business Resource Center is dedicated to supporting local businesses and fostering economic growth in the Washington area. The center provides valuable resources and assistance to entrepreneurs and business owners at no charge to the business owner. PBRC diligently monitors critical economic indicators specific to Beaufort County, providing valuable insights for local businesses by tracking employment rates, taxable sales, and housing data. This assists the local small business community in navigating potential economic shifts.

Data for this analysis is sourced from the North Carolina Department of Revenue, the North Carolina Department of Commerce, Rocket Homes, and local MLS reports obtained from Coldwell Banker Sea Coast Realty.

Keith Hudson is executive director and founder of the Pamlico Business Resource Center, a not-for-profit organization serving Washington and Beaufort County.