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SOLID TRIANGLE EMPLOYMENT SPURS HOME-BUILDING, AUTO AND RETAIL SALES; AIRPORT ACTIVITY GROWS

 RALEIGH, N.C., March 18 /PRNewswire/ -- Home-building activity, auto and retail sales in Wake County are among the highest in the state. Airport activity at Raleigh- Durham International has grown in recent months, while activity in Charlotte during the same period has declined.
 Unemployment in the Raleigh-Durham MSA remains the lowest in the state's major metropolitan areas, and job growth may be stronger than the numbers indicate. These are among the highlights of the First Union Triangle Perspectives economic report.
 "Our unemployment rate, while somewhat higher than several years ago, still remains the strongest in the state," said James T. Fain, First Union's Triangle regional executive. "A relatively solid job market, combined with some of the lowest interest rates in 20 years, has driven the surge we're seeing in the housing industry, as well as the strong retail and auto sales in our economy."
 Fain was also encouraged by reports from Raleigh-Durham International Airport. Boardings increased 5.9 percent last year to 4,977,147. After sluggish growth in the first half, enplanements surged 16.7 percent in the third quarter and 5.5 percent in the fourth quarter. That growth continued in January, with boardings increasing 5.8 percent over January 1992. By comparison, activity at Charlotte-Douglas International Airport grew 8.3 percent overall last year to 9,129,963. However, activity there declined 8.9 percent in the fourth quarter and declined 7.4 percent in January.
 "This surge in our boardings in the second half of the year can be seen as a heartening indicator that efforts to increase traffic at the airport and retain the American hub are apparently taking hold," Fain said.
 Job growth in the Triangle last year was 0.8 percent, well below the 4.0 percent growth in Fayetteville or 1.6 percent growth in Charlotte. However, employment in the Triangle MSA was 432,400 in January, up from 424,900 in December. The January figure also represents a 6.7 percent increase over the same month a year ago.
 When the Employment Security Commission of North Carolina revises last year's data, estimates for the Triangle are likely to increase, Fain said. Final revisions will not be done until it is determined how the latest census figures will be applied.
 "The increase in jobs from December to January is counter to the normal pattern we've seen of declining employment after the holiday retail season," Fain said. "That strong surge in employment, coupled with expected upward revisions in employment data for 1992, could hint that job growth has been stronger than we first thought."
 Unemployment in the Triangle, at 4.2 percent in January, remains the lowest among the state's major metropolitan areas, despite lay-offs in recent months. It compares with a state rate of 6.3 percent and the U.S. unadjusted rate of 7.9 percent.
 A strong employment picture also helped boost retail and auto sales in the Triangle. Retail sales in the Triangle were up 8.7 percent to $7.371 billion through November, the latest number available from the state. All three counties reported increases.
 New-car and truck sales in Wake County were up 12.9 percent to 33,702 last year, an increase second only to Guilford's 14.3 percent gain. In January, registrations in Wake were up 2.9 percent. Durham County reported a 27.0 percent gain in January over the same month a year ago, with 729 vehicles registered. That follows a 2.0 percent decline for the county in 1992, when 8,411 vehicles were sold. Orange County reported a 0.5 percent gain last year, with 3,877 vehicles registered, followed by a 5.5 percent gain in January.
 In the construction sector, Wake County reported a 39.1 percent increase in single-family home permits through November, an increase second only to Cumberland's 59.0 percent gain. Wake County permits totaled 4,894. Orange County reported a 33.0 percent increase to 605 permits, while Durham County's permits increased 28.6 percent to 1,078. Multifamily activity continues to be slow, with 461 units permitted through November in Wake County.
 Commercial construction also remains slow, with Wake County showing a 48.0 percent decline through November to $69.9 million. Durham permits totaled $84.5 million, a 28.4 percent decline, while Orange County permits dropped 34.0 percent to $6.3 million.
 The First Union Perspectives program also tracks the economy on an ongoing basis in Charlotte, Western N.C., the Triad and Southeastern N.C. Reports are issued in each market three times per year.
 First Union National Bank of North Carolina is a principal subsidiary of Charlotte-based First Union Corporation (NYSE: FTU FTUpr) and operates 269 offices throughout the state.
 -0- 3/18/93
 /CONTACT: (Media) Sandy Deem of First Union Corporation, 704-374-2710/
 (FTU)


CO: First Union Corporation ST: North Carolina IN: FIN SU: ECO

MM -- CH003 -- 7407 03/18/93 10:47 EST
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Date:Mar 18, 1993
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