Economic growth in WNC slows in second quarter

Published 12:59 pm Friday, August 27, 2010

The economy in Western North Carolina followed a national trend of slower growth in the second quarter, according to the regions economic index compiled by researchers at Appalachian State University. The index shows the economy grew 0.4 percent in the second quarter, a sharp decline from the four percent annualized growth rate in the first quarter. Western North Carolina topped the national growth rate of 3.7 percent in the first quarter, but lagged well behind the nations second quarter growth rate of 2.4 percent.

ASU researchers noted that figures for Western North Carolina were impacted by layoffs in the Hickory metropolitan area, which had a seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 12.8 percent in June. Other areas, particularly around Asheville, fared better in the second quarter, say researchers. Unemployment in the Asheville metro area, which includes Haywood, Madison and Buncombe counties, was at 8.1 percent in June. The unemployment rate in June for the 25-county WNC area was 10.4 percent.

Rick Elinburg, head of the Asheville office of the N.C. Employment Security Commission, said unemployment figures have been declining in the region in recent months, but its partly because some workers are exhausting their unemployment benefits and abandoning their search for work.

ASU professor Toddy Cherry, who helps compile the regions economic index, says the slower growth rate in the second quarter does not necessarily mean the areas heading for a double dip recession, but does show the recoverys going to be long and slow and bumpy.

Tom Tveidt, head of Syneva Economics in Haywood County, said he sees the Asheville area economy continuing its recovery. He says the area is settling back to what we were good at before: health care, leisure and tourism jobs.

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The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) is warning people to limit their consumption of fish caught in Lake Wateree after finding toxic chemicals in fish there. The state says it found PCBs, cancer-causing chemicals, in some of the popular game fish at the lake, including striped bass, blue catfish and largemouth bass. Its only the second time the state has issued such a warning for a lake in the state.

PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, are no longer produced but have persisted in the environment for decades. DHEC recently tested PCB levels after an EPA report came out showing PCB levels found in Lake Waterees largemouth bass were six times a public health safety standard. DHECs tests

DHEC is planning to put up warning signs at boat ramps at Lake Wateree, one of the most popular recreational lakes in the state. DHEC is advising that people should not eat more than one meal per month of blue catfish or striped bass, and should not eat more than one meal per week of largemouth bass.

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N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper is warning state residents who use Facebook about a recent scam to access information in users profiles. Cooper says the scammers are luring users to click a link to download an official dislike button. The message containing the link appears to have been sent by a friend, but it was actually generated automatically when the friend fell for the scam. There is no official dislike button, and clicking the link can extract the users personal information, says Cooper.

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A Durham company that maintains mobile content on phones for leading wireless companies has obtained large investments linked to Google and Blackberry. PocketGear, founded a decade ago by Jud Bowman when he was a teenager, has received $15 million from the investors to hire more staff and improve technology. Bowman says the funds will help his firm become a leader in applications for smart phones.

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The 4th annual Race to the Rock will bring runners and cyclists to Chimney Rock this weekend. The annual event, which includes a 5k run and 7k cycling time trial, will begin at 8 a.m. on Sunday. Spectators can watch the finish of the race just below Chimney Rock. The events are part of the 6th Annual Hickory Nut Gorge Olympiad, which benefits area charitable organizations.

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The second Continental Divide Trail Race will be held Saturday near the Blue Ridge Parkway in Laurel Springs, northeast of Boone. The USA 10K Trail Championships will draw a wide range of runners and also feature a 5K option. Elite runners in the event will be competing for national championships. The event also has divisions for boys and girls. For more information, visit www.continentaldividetrailrace.com.