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TRIAD EMPLOYMENT GROWTH HIGHLIGHTS MIXED ECONOMIC PICTURE

 TRIAD EMPLOYMENT GROWTH
 HIGHLIGHTS MIXED ECONOMIC PICTURE
 WINSTON-SALEM, N.C., Jan. 23 /PRNewswire/ -- The number of jobs in the Triad grew at a healthy rate from August through November but unemployment reached 5 percent in November after having dipped in September and October.
 Single-family home permits were 0.4 percent higher through October, compared to the previous year, while commercial construction in Guilford and Forsyth Counties was 32.3 percent lower last year through October.
 These results -- and an economic forecast for 1992 -- were highlighted today at the Triad Perspectives economic briefing by Mike Crocker, Winston-Salem area executive for First Union National Bank of North Carolina.
 Having an increase in both employment and unemployment is possible, Crocker said, when an area has a growing labor force. The number of jobs in the Triad grew more than 1.5 percent each month from September through November, compared to the same months a year earlier, reaching one of the highest monthly employments levels ever in September with an estimated 509,700 people employed.
 "Typically over the past few years, the Triad labor force has risen toward a peak in July and fallen again through December," Crocker said. "But this time, it did its typical rise toward a July peak, and then it kept on increasing. In September, our total number of workers had grown almost 22,000. By November the number still was as high as in July.
 "Something is happening in our labor market. We have near-record employment, unemployment still is higher than a year ago, and our number of available workers is notably larger."
 Crocker said the increase could include spouses entering the labor market or people taking on second jobs, since that counts, in effect, as another person in the statistics. The growing labor force also includes workers moving into the Triad.
 "Production in American furniture, textiles and apparel grew more in the second and third quarters of last year than any other segment of industrial production, and those industries maintained that level in the fourth quarter -- a good foundation for Triad manufacturing employment going into the year," Crocker said.
 Single-family home permits in the Triad were 0.4 percent higher through October, compared to the first 10 months of 1990. Guilford County activity was up 1.9 percent, with 1,739 permits, while Forsyth permits through October were down 2 percent, with 986 permits.ss than a half percent as good. But consider that statewide, home permits were down more than 5 percent through October. In Buncombe County, they had fallen more than 8 percent, in Wake County 55 percent, and in Durham and Mecklenburg counties close to 60 percent."
 Yearend statistics for multifamily permitting should be about 200 units in Guilford and Forsyth counties, compared to about 4,300 in 1985. That level of construction is appropriate, however, for apartment occupancy rates of about 90 percent, Crocker said.
 Commercial construction in the Triad was down 32.3 percent through October, compared to 1990, with about $88 million permitted in Guilford County and $42.4 million in Forsyth.
 "People didn't build more last year because they didn't need to build," Crocker said. "The commercial construction market was well 'fed' in the late '80s, whether it was retail, office or industrial. Another damper on development, of course, is the restriction on credit, a healthy response to some of the problems in the commercial real estate sector in the past couple of years."
 Estimated retail sales figures provided by the state totaled $3.344 billion through August. Those reports have been delayed by reporting problems resulting from the mid- year sales tax increase. First Union's interviews with area retailers indicate that the fourth quarter may have been better than most people thought.
 Car sales were down 12.8 percent in 1991 for the Triad. Guilford was down 11.7 percent, with 14,358 cars registered and Forsyth down 14.5 percent, with 10,231.
 "But we believe, based on our interviews, that we'll see good car sales increases for January," Crocker said. "And there are dealers who see this as the turn-around year. They see loans more available for buyers. They know that for every person who has refinanced his or her home with lower rates, there's another $200 or so of available income for purchases. They know that almost a third of the cars we're driving are 10 years or older and another 25 percent are 7 to 10 years old."
 First Union's forecast also calls for:
 -- Clearly improving employment totals by late spring, when
 unemployment also will drop;
 -- A pick-up in economic development announcements with
 three to five companies announcing relocations to the
 Triad by spring.
 -- Some increase in commercial construction, most of it
 coming in second and third quarters;
 -- Some increase in 1992 home starts, but still very little
 apartment construction;
 -- An improvement in retail business, which actually may
 have begun in December;
 -- A rise in car sales, but not a dramatic one.
 The First Union Perspectives program also tracks the economy on an ongoing basis in Western North Carolina, Southeastern North Carolina, the Triangle and the Triad. Results are reported for each area 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 in more than 200 North Carolina Communities.
 -0- 1/23/92
 /CONTACT: (Media) Sandy Deem, First Union Corporation, 704-374-2710/
 (FTU) CO: First Union Corporation ST: North Carolina IN: FIN SU: ECO


CM -- CH011 -- 2866 01/23/92 13:53 EST
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Date:Jan 23, 1992
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