UNC Charlotte economist predicts bumpy road ahead for NC

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The North Carolina economy is likely to grow this year, but the recovery will remain uneven and jobs will remain scarce, economist John Connaughton said during his quarterly economic presentation, delivered at UNC Charlotte’s uptown campus.

The Charlotte Observer reported Connaughton expects the state’s economy to increase 0.8 percent over 2009. That’s a downgrade from his earlier reports: In June, Connaughton predicted 2.2 growth; in March, he said the state’s economy was likely to grow by 3.5 percent over 2009.

“The national economy has been able to put together four consecutive quarters of expansion, while the North Carolina economy has struggled to put two quarters of growth together,” he said.

Even anemic growth has helped stem job losses, but it’s not yet enough to generate job growth, Connaughton said. That means unemployment, which has long troubled the Charlotte region and the state, will remain inflated.

“Although there is little likelihood of a double dip (recession) during the second half of the year, the economy will continue to be sluggish enough that, to many people, it will feel like a return to the recession.”

Connaughton expects N.C. businesses to add 37,400 jobs this year, up 1 percent from 2009. Those gains follow a loss of more than 282,000 jobs statewide during the recession.

The N.C. unemployment rate, which began the year above 11 percent and has since dropped to a seasonally adjusted rate of 9.8 percent, is expected to drop to 9.4 percent by the end of the year, he said.

Looking ahead to next year, Connaughton expects the state economy to grow 2.7 percent. He predicts output increases from seven of the state’s 11 economic sectors, including retail trade and finance. Companies across the state could add 19,700 more jobs in 2011, but job growth will probably lag for the foreseeable future, he said.

“It is likely to take four or five years to regain the lost jobs,” Connaughton said. “Job growth will be the biggest problem for both the U.S. and North Carolina economies over the next several years.” Read more.

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