Economist: N.C. unemployment will continue to rise

An North Carolina. State economist predicts the state's unemployment rate will continue to rise through early next year, and the pain could be especially acute in the Charlotte area.

The region's jobless rate will average 12.6 percent for this year, according to the N.C. Economic Outlook report released today by economics professor Michael Walden. It will fall to about 11.7 percent in 2010.

Walden also predicts that the Charlotte area's home sales will fall 30 percent and retail sales will fall 17 percent, before bouncing back with small gains in 2010.

“The Charlotte Region has never seen a downturn like the 2007-2009 recession,” Walden wrote. “The recession struck at the core of the region's modern economy – financial services, motor vehicle parts, and real estate.”

Walden predicts that Raleigh and the rest of the Research Triangle will fare better, with unemployment peaking around 9.1 percent this year.

All told, North Carolina has lost an unprecedented 240,000 jobs since the current recession started in December 2007, Walden wrote. The N.C. unemployment rate was 11.1 percent in May, higher than the national average of 9.4 percent, according to the state's Employment Security Commission. The Charlotte area's rate was 12 percent in the same period. Walden said economists are predicting that N.C.'s unemployment could peak at 13 percent early next year.

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