There were a few light-hearted moments during an economic forecast forum in Raleigh this morning, reflecting a more optimistic mood among economists and business leaders.
As the event wrapped up, moderator Phil Zachary, the president of Curtis Media Group, told the keynote speakers that they are helping make "economics sexy again."
"You two are the Hugh Hefner and Brad Pitt of economics," Zachary told Wells Fargo economist John Silvia and Federal Reserve economist Matthew Martin.
Silvia, who has a reputation for not pulling punches, also drew some laughs when he discussed jobs in a recovering economy and how four-year college is "a waste of money" for many people.
"You can't study French literature for four years and make $100,000 a year," he said.
He praised the state's community college system, and said if he were "education czar," he would close some of the state's four-year universities and put the money into community colleges. He named UNC Pembroke and Elizabeth City State University as two he would shut.
"I'm not running for public office, so I can say whatever I please," he added.
Silvia also pointed out that there are some hard truths to the economy. One is that many jobs that disappeared during the recession aren't going to return. Not so funny.
In his analysis of the state, he noted that there are a handful of counties, mostly in rural areas away from major highways, that consistently have high unemployment. Those regions won't ever attract new jobs, he said. Again, not funny.
But then he followed up with this punchline: "Sometimes I think we should shut [those counties], turn them into state parks and move the people out."