November 26, 2022

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What’s ahead for Asheville in 2021? Will tourism, economy rebound?

Home sales were one of the few bright spots in the local economy in 2020. In this file photo, construction continues at Sycamore Cottages, a 130-home subdivision in the Fletcher area above Smiley's Flea Market, on Oct. 16, 2020.

Let’s be brutally honest here: 2020 was a year for the wastebasket — or maybe a certain flushable device.

The global pandemic shut down entire industries, caused millions of jobs to vanish and killed 2 million people worldwide.

Locally, tourism dried up, causing hotel and restaurant shutdowns that translated to a 17.5% unemployment rate in Buncombe County in April. The Asheville Metropolitan Statistical Area (Buncombe, Haywood, Henderson and Madison counties) lost an astounding 36,400 jobs that month.

While tourism and the local economy slowly rebounded, 2020 still wrapped up as a tough year. So it’s natural to ask: what’s 2021 going to look like, and when are we going to get out of this economic funk?

Economist James F. Smith, who has over 30 years experience as an economic forecaster, offered an answer a lot of folks will be glad to hear. Smith spoke during the 2020 Metro Economy Outlook in December, hosted by the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce.