UNCC economist predicts 2.2% economic growth this year

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 N.C. employers will add jobs at a modest pace this year as the state continues its economic rebound, UNC Charlotte economist John Connaughton said yesterday in his quarterly economic forecast.

Connaughton predicts that the state’s economy will grow 2.2 percent this year over last, according to a Charlotte Observer report. He expects businesses across the state to add 58,000 jobs in 2010.

By contrast, N.C. companies lost 182,900 jobs in 2009 and 115,800 the year before.

“While the North Carolina economy has been behind the U.S. economic recovery, the state now appears to be rebounding,” Connaughton said. “The question is no longer when we will recover, but how strong will the recovery be?”

Connaughton said he expects most of the state’s 11 economic sectors to see output increase this year, he said. The strongest sectors include services, finance, insurance and real estate and government.

Seven sectors will also see job growth, he said. The strongest: wholesale trade, retail trade and construction, Connaughton said.

That’s good news, but he said job growth is likely to remain the biggest problem for the state and national economy for the next few years.

“North Carolina lost almost 300,000 jobs during 2008 and 2009, and it is likely to take four or five years to regain the lost jobs,” Connaughton said.

He expects the N.C. unemployment rate to decline this year, reaching 10.8 percent by December. Next year, he said, he expects the state’s economy to grow by 2.8 percent.

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