Around the Region: N.C. economist: slow recovery continues in 2012

Published 8:41 am Friday, December 9, 2011

North Carolina’s economy will grow a little more in 2012 than it did this year, although the recovery will remain slow, according to U.N.C.-Charlotte economist John Connaughton.
Following growth of 1.3 percent this year, the economy will expand by 1.7 percent next year, said Connaughton. The growth, still well below the 3.2 percent growth rate seen in 2010, is expected to provide a net gain of about 38,000 jobs in the state next year, up from 22,500 this year. While that would be a net gain of 60,500 jobs in two years, it would still leave the state far short of making up the estimated 323,000 jobs lost in the state during the recession.
“After experiencing a modest recovery in 2010, the North Carolina economy has suffered through a disappointing first half of 2011,” said Connaughton.
The UNC Charlotte professor of financial economics said concerns about the European debt crisis and the U.S. debt ceiling crisis caused a decline in consumer confidence. He added the banking system continues to hold “enormous excess reserves,” which is restricting lending and “negating the impact of the Federal Reserve Bank’s monetary policy.”
For 2012, Connaughton said he expects 11 of the state’s economic sectors will see output increases, led by business and professional services, finance, insurance and real estate, wholesale trade, and information. The UNC-Charlotte professor said he expects again there will be only eight economic sectors in the state with employment increases, including hospitality and leisure, government and education and health services.
The job gains in 2012 will represent an employment increase of about 1 percent, said Connaughton.
– source:, 12/6/11
South Carolina may see a greater employment increase in 2012 than its northern neighbor, according to economists at the University of South Carolina. Professors Douglas Woodward and Joey Von Nessen presented a 2012 economic forecast that predicts an employment increase of 2 percent, double the one percent employment growth seen this year.
According to the forecast, manufacturing, especially for durable goods, will lead the employment gains, followed by business and health services. Construction activity is expected to drop slightly early next year, but then pick up through the rest of the year.
Von Nessen said the job gains next year won’t necessarily lower the state’s unemployment rate. As the job market improves, he said, it will draw more people back to the workforce who left because of a lack of employment opportunities.
Although the state is on course for another positive year of growth and recovery, Von Nessen said the economy remains “very delicate,” and could be impacted by the European debt crisis, an uncertain stock market and the U.S. presidential election.
Spartanburg County could see a larger role in job growth in the coming year. The county has received commitments from companies planning to invest about $300 million and create hundreds of new jobs in the coming years. The county is finalizing an incentives package for Amazon, which plans to open a new $50 million distribution facility with 390 full-time jobs.
– source:,, 12/7/11
North Carolina has not seen job growth in the construction industry over the past year, according to an analysis by the Associated General Contractors of America. The organization said North Carolina lost about 4,700 construction jobs between October 2010 and October 2011, a decline of about 3 percent. The state had 174,300 construction jobs in October, down from 179,000 in October 2010.
The Raleigh-Cary and Winston-Salem metro areas were the only markets that saw an increase in construction employment. Construction jobs increased 3 percent in Winston-Salem and 1 percent in Raleigh-Cary, while they declined 2 percent in Charlotte.
Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist, said a decline in federal investments in infrastructure projects, including highway and transit work, was slowing growth for construction jobs.
“If it wasn’t for a slight increase in private sector demand, construction employment would be down in even more communities,” said Simonson.
– source: Charlotte Business Journal, 12/7/11
The Asheville area is seeing a building boom for new apartments. While demand remains low for new single-family houses, construction is under way for more than 800 new apartment units in Buncombe County, and last week Asheville City Council approved a new 312-unit apartment complex.
Lesley Groetsch, manager of At The Lofts of Reynolds Village in Woodfin, said she doesn’t see demand easing for apartments as long as banks maintain their current lending restrictions. She said it’s currently hard to find an apartment in Asheville.
Some of the current projects were launched as condos, but the developers switched to apartments when the real estate market declined. Tom Leslie of Leslie & Associates said occupancy has remained high for the 1,300 apartment units his company manages. He said he is seeing more young professionals renting apartments rather than buying a home or condo.
– source:, 12/2/11
Public ice skating and recreational hockey will return to Asheville next year. The Crowne Plaza Resort said it plans to begin construction soon on a 28,000-square-foot building for an ice rink. The rink will be run by the Asheville Hockey League, which already bought the ice rink, boards and refrigeration equipment from the City of Asheville earlier this year.
The city has not had a public rink since 2008 when a recreational hockey league was active at the Civic Center with more than 200 players. The new facility will be used for both adult and youth hockey leagues, public skating and figure skating.
“The facility is going to be right next to the Asheville Racquet Club on a piece of land right here,” said Angela Beattie, regional director of sales and market at Crowne Plaza Resort. “We’ll be able to host tournaments, and we hope to really boost our business in the offseason, November through March. We’re excited about having something else for people to do here in town.”
An agreement between the city and the Asheville Hockey League requires that the rink be available for public skating “on the weekends for at least 60 percent of the time while the ice rink is operational.”
As part of an agreement with the Crowne Plaza, the hockey league also must raise $350,000 over the next two and a half years to cover operational expenses and other costs.
– source:, 11/14/11
Pullen Memorial Baptist Church in Raleigh voted last month to prohibit the church pastor from legally marrying anyone until the state allows same-sex marriages. The church members said current North Carolina law, and a proposed amendment to the state constitution, discriminate against same-sex couples “by denying them the rights and privileges enjoyed by heterosexual married couples.”
A statement issued by the church said, “As a people of faith, affirming the Christian teaching that before God all people are equal, we will no longer participate in this discrimination.”
The vote in the church was unanimous and brought tears to the eyes of some who voted in favor of the “statement on marriage ceremonies.” The church’s pastor, Nancy Petty, was among them. Petty, a lesbian, told the congregants this past summer that signing legal marriage certificates to wed heterosexual couples, but not doing the same for homosexual couples had become a burden on her conscience. She said the church’s decision to stop legal marriages was more than she expected.
The church now plans to perform marriage ceremonies that will be holy unions reflecting “the spiritual nature of the solemn commitments between two people in a loving relationship.” The pastor will not sign a state certificate for a legal marriage.
Pullen Memorial Baptist Church has a history of involvement in social and political issues. The church, which has about 650 members and sits close to N.C. State University, was kicked out of the Southern Baptist Convention in 1992 after deciding to bless gay marriages.
– source:, 11/21/11
A new debate over North Carolina’s death penalty law is taking shape. A coalition of religious leaders has begun collecting petitions and resolutions of support to end the law, but Republican lawmakers in the state are voicing their support for the death penalty. The lawmakers repealed the Racial Justice Act, a 2009 law that lets state judges consider statistical evidence when reviewing whether race was a key factor in the prosecution’s decision to seek the death penalty.
The religious leaders, who met recently at Martin Street Baptist Church in Raleigh to announce their plan for opposing the law, said removing the death penalty would save the state millions of dollars and eliminate the potential for executions of innocent people.
Rev. Frank Dew, pastor of New Creation Community Presbyterian Church in Greensboro, said he knows the religious leaders will face strong resistance in the Republican-controlled General Assembly.
“I’m not sure it’s a good time, but I’m not sure there’s ever been a good time,” said Dew. “But it’s the right time.’
North Carolina has not had an execution since 2006 when the death penalty was suspended due to a series of lawsuits challenging the law. Despite the suspension, capital trials have continued since then in the state. In the past four years, there have been 49 capital defendants in the state, and nine were sentenced to death.
– source:, 12/3/11

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