It’s time to talk about NC jobs

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With North Carolina’s economy expected to continue to slow through the end of the year, UNC Charlotte professor John Connaughton said that it’s time for more discussion about jobs in the state. The Charlotte Observer reports despite recent weakness in job growth, the U.S. has made back about 46 percent of the jobs it lost during the recession. North Carolina, though, has made back only 32 percent.  The state’s unemployment remains stubbornly above the national rate, and some months North Carolina is still losing jobs.

In his quarterly Babson Capital/UNC Charlotte economic forecast, Connaughton said North Carolina leaders need to be discussing the problem more and figuring out how to restore the state’s once-booming economy. “Nationally, we’re concerned about it, but locally we don’t really seem to be concerned about it,” Connaughton said. “We’re not having that conversation here in North Carolina.”

Connaughton’s forecast was much more dour than his last two. He said the country is flirting with a double-dip recession should Congress not extend the Bush-era tax cuts set to expire Jan. 1.

North Carolina’s economic growth has slowed through the year, from an annual rate of 2.3 percent in the first quarter to a projected 0.8 percent in the fourth quarter. A 3 percent to 4 percent growth rate is considered healthy.  Unemployment is expected to remain steady around the current 9.6 percent.

The finance, insurance and real estate sector — which makes up about a fifth of the state’s economy — is expected to have a strong year, but construction and manufacturing are still leaving gaping holes.

Speaking with the Observer after the talk, Connaughton said North Carolina will likely need a resurgence in manufacturing and construction to fully heal. But he said state leaders need to sit down and figure out how to proceed before North Carolina is viewed more along the lines of states like Michigan.

“This state had been looked at as an economic miracle,” he said. “We’re not only not that anymore, we’re on the whole other side.”  Read More.

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