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WNC Region’s Economy Remained Flat in February

BOONE–Western North Carolina’s economy in February was as flat as a week-old can of soda, disappointing news considering the region had experienced very strong growth in past months. But the slowdown is not necessarily a sign that the economy has stalled, says Todd Cherry, an economist at Appalachian State University.

” It is a bit disappointing, but not too surprising because the recovery is two years old and still remains a little shaky,” Cherry said. “The region’s growth at the end of 2003 was very strong and probably not sustainable, so in the first part of this year we appear to be taking the foot off the gas a bit.”

The Western North Carolina Economic Index, prepared monthly by Cherry and university colleagues, remained unchanged at 107.3 in February, the same as was posted in January, according to revised data. The index tracks economic activity in 25 western North Carolina counties.

Cherry is hopeful that the 0.8 percent decline in February employment for the region will improve. National employment data, which is released before county data becomes available, shows a positive movement for March. “If that translates to our region and county, we should see job growth in March as well,” Cherry said.

Job losses were felt across region and unemployment claims increased to 5.6 percent in February. The Hickory-Morganton-Lenoir area recorded an 8.2 percent unemployment rate, while Asheville posted 3.6 percent unemployment numbers.

Rutherford was the only county posting double-digit unemployment numbers at 11.95 percent. Watauga County recorded the lowest numbers in the region with 2.09 percent unemployment.

The WNC Economic Index and Report provides a monthly account of economic conditions for Western North Carolina. It typically is released the fifth week following each month. For more information, visit www.business.appstate.edu/wncindex.asp.

The WNC Economic Index and Report is a cooperative effort by AdvantageWest-North Carolina, and Appalachian State University’s Walker College of Business and Appalachian Regional Development Institute.

Cherry is assisted by co-authors John Dawson of the Walker College of Business and College of Arts and Sciences professor Rich Crepeau.

For more information, call Cherry at (828) 262-6081.

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