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WNC Economic Index Reflects Positive Movement for Region

BOONE–Western North Carolina’s economy recorded positive growth in April, the second straight month of positive performance, according to data released today in the WNC Economic Index and Report.

The index is compiled monthly by Appalachian State University Walker College of Business professors Todd L. Cherry and John Dawson, and College of Arts and Sciences professor Rich Crepeau. The index tracks economic conditions in the state’s 25 western counties.

“After a period of persistent stagnant economic performance, we have now experienced two straight months of positive momentum,” said Cherry. “The economy still remains soft and prospects are still uncertain, but the continued positive movement is promising.”

According to the report, regional economic activity grew 0.3 percent in April. The increase continues the positive growth exhibited in March. But Cherry cautions that the region’s economy, while encouraging, remains fragile. “The region experienced some job growth in April, but there are still fewer jobs today than a year ago,” he said. “The movement is in the right direction, but we still have ground to recover.”

Seasonally adjusted employment for the region increased 0.1 percent in April, but regional employment remains 1.0 percent below the April 2002 level. Employment for the state was virtually unchanged in April.

Regional consumer spending declined 3 percent across the region in April. Asheville’s retail economy remained strong with a 3.3 percent increase in spending, while Hickory-Morganton-Lenoir experienced an 8.1 percent decrease.

Nine of the 25 western counties experienced job growth in April, with Avery County posting the largest gains for the second straight month.

Asheville posted a 0.3 percentage point increase in unemployment in April, while the Hickory-Morganton-Lenoir metro area saw unemployment increase 0.7 percent points to 8.8 percent for the month.

Due to increases in people looking for jobs, 22 of the 25 counties experienced an increase in unemployment rates. Mitchell, Madison and Polk had unemployment fall. Watauga County had the lowest unemployment rate for April (2.78 percent), with Alleghany County posting the highest rate at 13.17 percent.

The WNC 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 the report’s Web site at http://www.business.appstate.edu/wncindex.asp.

The WNC 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.

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Contact: Todd L. Cherry (828) 262-6081