Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Charlotte economy improving, but challenges remain, report says

The Charlotte area's economy will grow this year, but big gains in professional services, consumer industries and manufacturing will likely be offset by weakness in the government and finance sectors, according to a new report from PNC.

The bank's Charlotte Market Outlook, released today, found job growth has cooled this year but that the economic recovery is still inching forward. Rising auto sales nationally are contributing to production and hiring in local truck plants. And the area's transportation industry is benefiting from increased manufacturing output, PNC found.

Hiring will ramp up next year as the government and finance fields improve, the report said. But the unemployment rate will remain inflated, given the Charlotte region's strong population growth, which has led to a growing labor force. PNC expects the area's unemployment rate to end the year at 9.7 percent and fall to 9 percent by the end of 2013 -- still well above the area's pre-recession level.

Charlotte is expected to fare better than the national average in the long run, though, the bank said. The area continues to draw educated workers, and its population is younger than other parts of the country, positive signs for economic growth, PNC found.

Among the report's other findings:

  • The Charlotte area's housing market is improving, with modest price increases likely by late 2012.
  • Personal income is on pace with the rest of the country, with help from job growth and rising stocks. Yet the region continues to suffer from steep finance sector losses from 2008 to 2010. "We anticipate it will take another couple of years for the area to recover that lost ground," PNC said.