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 RALEIGH, N.C., Sept. 14 /PRNewswire/ -- Employment in the Triangle is at an all-time high, and unemployment has dropped to more than three points below the national rate. A solid employment base has also boosted car and retail sales in all three counties.
 Single-family home building is the strongest it's been since 1986 in Wake and Orange counties, although activity in Durham has declined. Commercial construction activity in Orange County is at its highest level in seven years and is also rising in Wake County. Boardings at Raleigh-Durham International Airport set a record for year-to-date activity through July, although enplanements during the months of June and July were lower than in the same months last year.
 These are among the highlights of the First Union Triangle Perspectives economic report, released today by First Union's Triangle Region executive, Jim Fain.
 "Overall, this is the strongest economic picture we've seen in the Triangle in several years," Fain said. "The consumer is the real star in our economy right now, with home construction booming, retail sales showing double-digit gains, car sales at their highest level in several years, and multifamily construction showing signs of life. This lays a solid foundation for our economy overall, when you consider that consumers drive two-thirds of the economy."
 New-car and truck sales in Wake County topped 22,000 for the first time since 1986, totaling 22,651 through July. Durham reported a 20 percent gain, with 5,916 vehicles registered, and Orange sales were up 5.6 percent at 2,519. Retail sales through May were up 14.7 percent in Wake County to $2.5 billion; up 11.0 percent in Durham County to $806 million; and up 10.0 percent in Orange County to $292.9 million.
 Consumer spending was boosted by a strong Triangle employment base, which reached 448,900 in July, up 2.4 percent from last year. July unemployment dropped to 3.6 percent from 4.3 percent a year ago. That represents about 16,800 people looking for work -- or 3,000 fewer than a year earlier -- and compares to the national unemployment rate of 6.9 percent and state rate of 4.9 percent.
 Single-family home construction in Wake County was up 13.7 percent through June, with 3,005 permits -- topping 3,000 for the first time since 1986. Orange County showed a 21.7 percent gain, permitting 427 homes. That's the most since at least 1986, when 423 homes were permitted. Permits in Durham County, however, dropped 11.7 percent from last year's total to 515; that compares to 877 homes permitted in 1986.
 Multifamily construction has been slow but is starting to pick up. Wake County permitted 519 units through June, a 117.2 percent increase over last year. However, that's still far below the 823 units permitted in the first half of 1990 or the 2,148 permitted in the first half of 1986. Durham has permitted 83 units this year -- down 46.8 percent from 1992 -- while Orange has permitted no units.
 "While multifamily is still well off the pace of the mid-'80s, we're now beginning to see a number of new projects," Fain said. "Multifamily development is clearly on the rise again, driven by high occupancy rates, and we expect to see significant gains over last year."
 Commercial construction in Wake County totaled $47.7 million through June -- up 19.2 percent from last year but still less than half the average total for first-half activity of the last seven years. Durham permitted $46.0 million, well below its $67.7 million average June YTD activity since 1986. Orange County, however, topped $10 million for the first time since 1986 with $10.1 million in commercial permits. That's a 312.3 percent gain over last year.
 Airport boardings totaled 2,883,738 through July, a 0.5 percent gain over the first seven months of 1992. That total was boosted by record April boardings, while June boardings dropped 9.2 percent from the same month last year, and July boardings dropped 15.4 percent.
 First Union tracks the North Carolina economy on an ongoing basis through its Perspectives economic program in the Triangle, Triad, Charlotte, Western North Carolina and Southeastern North Carolina. First Union National Bank of North Carolina is a principal subsidiary of Charlotte-based First Union Corporation (NYSE: FTU FTUpr) and operates 249 offices in more than 200 North Carolina Communities.
 -0- 9/14/93
 /CONTACT: (Media) Sandy Deem of First Union Corporation, 704-374-2710/

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

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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:Sep 14, 1993

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