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WNC Economy Stumbles

BOONE—Western North Carolina’s economy recovered some lost ground in October, increasing 0.3 percent for the month after the 0.4 percent decline recorded in September, according to data released in the Western North Carolina Economic Index.

The index tracks the economic activity in 25 western North Carolina counties.

According to the report, the region’s economy grew at an annual rate of 1.2 percent since June, which is a significant drop from the growth posted in previous months.

“The recent weakness in the regional economy mirrors the slowdown experienced at the national level; however, the slowdown appears to be more pronounced in the region,” said Todd Cherry, a professor of economics in Appalachian State University’s Walker College of Business and coauthor of the index.

Despite the slowing economy, the employment situation is holding its own.

“Even though the region’s economy remains sluggish, there were more jobs in October, and unemployment was down across the region.

Seasonally adjusted employment for the region increased 0.50 percent in October, rebounding from a 0.19 percent decline in September. Statewide employment increased 0.40 percent for the month.

Twenty-one of the western counties recorded positive job growth in October, with the largest gains occurring in the central area of the region. Alleghany, Alexander, Burke and Caldwell counties experienced job losses.

The seasonally adjusted rate of unemployment for the region decreased 0.2 percentage points in October to 4.7 percent—the lowest rate since June 2006. The adjusted unemployment rate for North Carolina also decreased 0.2 points to 4.7 percent. The national unemployment rate was 4.4 percent.

The region’s rural counties posted a slight decline in the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate, falling 0.1 points to 5.1 percent in October. Unemployment rates also fell in the region’s metro areas for the month; down 0.1 points to 3.5 percent in Asheville and down 0.3 points to 5.7 percent in Hickory-Morganton-Lenoir.

There was a widespread decline in county-level seasonally adjusted unemployment rates in October. Twenty of the 25 WNC counties experienced declines in unemployment rates, and all 25 counties had lower unemployment rates than a year ago.

Graham, Macon and Caldwell counties had the largest declines in unemployment rates during October (0.57, 0.54 and 0.51 percentage points). Polk and Watauga counties had the lowest rates for the month (3.17 and 3.23), while Rutherford and Caldwell counties had the highest rates (7.25 and 6.61).

Seasonally adjusted initial claims for unemployment insurance in the region, a leading indicator of unemployment, remained flat in October. Initial claims decreased 1.3 percent in Asheville and decreased 5.1 percent in Hickory-Morganton-Lenoir.

The WNC Economic Index and Report provides a monthly account of economic conditions for Western North Carolina. It typically is released the fifth week following

the end of each month.

The WNC Economic Index and Report is provided by the Department of Economics in

Appalachian State University’s Walker College of Business. Cherry is assisted by

coauthors John Dawson of the Department of Economics and Rich Crepeau of the

Department of Geography and Planning.

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