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JOB GROWTH IN CHARLOTTE FUELS CAR SALES, RETAIL SALES AND HOME-BUILDING

 CHARLOTTE, N.C., July 8 /PRNewswire/ -- Employment in the Charlotte MSA has grown 2.4 percent this year, setting a record every month for the same month in previous years. New-car and truck sales are also at record highs, and retail sales and home-building activity are up as well. Commercial construction, however, continues to be slow, and airport boardings have declined.
 These were among the highlights reported at the First Union Perspectives economic briefing today by Lee Keesler, First Union's Charlotte regional executive. Keesler noted that the May employment level for the seven-county MSA -- including Mecklenburg, Gaston, Cabarrus, Lincoln, Rowan, Union and York counties -- was 4,200 jobs higher than it was three years ago, before the effects of the recession. May unemployment dropped to 4.7 percent, from 5.5 percent a year ago.
 "Job growth of 2.4 percent is significant when you consider Charlotte is growing faster than Jacksonville, Memphis or Richmond, although not as fast as Atlanta," Keesler said. "That trend, coupled with declining unemployment and low interest rates, gives us a solid base for the healthy growth we're seeing in car and retail sales, as well as home-building activity."
 New-car and truck sales in Mecklenburg County through May totaled 19,015, a gain of 11.5 percent over last year, representing a dollar gain of $35 million. "These first five months are the best car dealers have seen in at least eight years, and since 1985-86 is generally recognized as the previous peak, we believe this is a record level," Keesler said. "After seeing car sales pull down our retail sales totals for three years, it's good to see them contributing again to our overall retail activity in the last 18 months."
 Retail sales in Mecklenburg through the first quarter were up 13.1 percent to $2.3 billion, despite sales lost during the blizzard in March. Much of the increase came from a variety of small, new stores and shopping centers. At most existing stores, sales increases were typically in the 3-6 percent range. Retails sales in surrounding counties also were up, ranging from Cabarrus County's gain of 7.2 percent to Union County's 13 percent gain.
 Single-family home-building through April was also at a record high in Mecklenburg County, with 1,789 homes permitted. That's a 13.3 percent gain over last year. Sales of existing homes were up 1.4 percent through May, with the average price increasing 5.2 percent to $132,582.
 Multifamily permits through April totaled 194, compared to the average 1,300 permitted April year-to-date during the peak of 1985-87. Most of the new units are subsidized or for the elderly. Vacancy rates dropped to 6.1 percent in May from 10.2 percent a year ago and are expected to be as low as 3-3.5 percent by the end of next year. "Low vacancy rates should support some substantial rent increases by mid-1994, spurring another wave of apartment construction by late next year or early 1995," Keesler said.
 Commercial construction permits in the first four months totaled $45.8 million, a 15.4 percent decline from last year. That total includes warehouse space, some retail and school projects, and a number of church expansions. The economic development pace has slowed somewhat, and some industrial companies have been unable to find the space they need here.
 Boardings at Charlotte Douglas International Airport have declined in all but one of the past eight months, compared to strong activity in 1992. In May, boardings declined 6.3 percent from May 1992. That decline reflects the discontinuation of Lufthansa flights last October and the flights moved by USAir to the new Pittsburgh hub.
 In its forecast, First Union is calling for:
 -- Job growth to rise through the summer, then ease off toward the fourth quarter, probably ending the year at 2.6-2.8 percent; unemployment should stay below 5 percent;
 -- Retail sales to increase 8-10 percent through the second and third quarters, but appear slightly weaker in the fourth quarter, compared to last year, ending the year with about a 10 percent gain overall;
 -- New-car and truck registrations to rise 15-18 percent, with a strong summer selling season;
 -- Single-family home permits to increase 10-12 percent and MLS sales gains to improve several points over their current level;
 -- Multifamily permits to perhaps exceed 1,000 -- not a big year but a major increase over last year; 1994 should be a stronger multifamily year, especially toward the end;
 -- Erratic activity in the nonresidential construction sector, with permit values difficult to predict;
 -- Passenger boardings to end the year behind 1992, but still be the second-best year in the airport's history.
 First Union also tracks the economy on an ongoing basis through its Perspectives program in Western North Carolina, Southeastern North Carolina, the Triangle and the Triad. First Union National Bank of North Carolina is a principal subsidiary of Charlotte-based First Union Corporation (NYSE: FTU FTUpr) and operates 249 offices across the state.
 -0- 7/8/93
 /CONTACT: (Media) Sandy Deem of First Union Corporation, 704-374-2710/
 (FTU)


CO: First Union Corporation; First Union National Bank
 of North Carolina ST: North Carolina IN: FIN SU: ECO


MM -- CH004 -- 9527 07/08/93 13:03 EDT
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Date:Jul 8, 1993
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