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TRIAD REGAINS JOBS LOST IN RECESSION; REPORTS GAINS IN HOME-BUILDING, CAR AND RETAIL SALES

 TRIAD REGAINS JOBS LOST IN RECESSION;
 REPORTS GAINS IN HOME-BUILDING, CAR AND RETAIL SALES
 WINSTON-SALEM, N.C., Sept. 9 /PRNewswire/ -- The Triad has regained more than half the jobs lost in the 1990-91 recession and is reporting the strongest home-building activity in several years. Job growth has boosted car and retail sales as well.
 These results -- and an economic forecast for 1993 -- were highlighted today at the Triad Perspectives economic briefing by Mike Crocker, Winston-Salem area executive for First Union National Bank of North Carolina.
 "Underneath an economy that's been bouncing up and down along the bottom, we're seeing some signs of true economic improvement and upward recovery," Crocker said.
 Crocker was joined at the briefing by David Orr, First Union's chief economist, who gave the state and national economic perspective. "Although North Carolina's economy has slowed down from its sharp rebound in late 1991, it is still outperforming the national averages in virtually every category," Orr said.
 Orr cited employment in July that was 0.8 percent higher in North Carolina than in July 1991, whereas the national gain was 0.4 percent. N.C. retail sales in June were 9.5 percent higher, compared with a 3.0 percent gain nationally. Single-family home permits in the state through July are up 33 percent, compared to 23 percent growth in the U.S. Multi-family permits here are up 24 percent, compared to a 4 percent decline nationally. Personal income in North Carolina rose 5.4 percent from the first quarter of last year, compared with 4.0 percent for the entire U.S.
 Nationally, the job market took a turn for the worse in August, despite a small dip in unemployment. August employment declined by 83,000 jobs, despite creation of 100,000 temporary summer jobs for teenagers.
 "This stunning drop in employment is further evidence of the determination of U.S. companies to improve their productivity and efficiency," Orr said. "The decline in jobs in the private sector of 167,000 is in sharp contrast to the boost in the index of aggregate hours worked, which rose at a 10.4 percent annual rate in August."
 Orr said that structural transitions, such as the defense slowdown and debt reduction, would likely last another couple of years, regars?s of who is in the White House. "In the meantime, the pattern of mini-cycles, with ups and downs in our economy, is likely to continue," he said. "The key is not to get overly optimistic when a string of good numbers appears nor too pessimistic when data like this drop in employment appear."
 In the Triad, there were 7,700 more jobs reported in July than a year earlier, including 500 new manufacturing jobs. Most of the growth came in the service sector, including temporary agencies and all medical hiring. However, the creation of jobs has not kept pace with the influx of new workers, as reflected in an unemployment rate of 5.7 percent -- up from 5.4 percent last July.
 Job growth boosted retail sales, up 8.8 percent in Forsyth through May, to the highest total ever at $1.424 billion. Sales in Guilford were up 5.6 percent to $2.172 billion, including a record first quarter. "Retailers in our interviews are increasingly optimistic," Crocker said. "They expect fairly constantly increasing sales now, though they expect us as shoppers to continue to be demanding and bargain conscious."
 New car and truck sales through August were up 16.1 percent in Guilford County to 13,591. Despite a sharp dip in August, Forsyth car and truck sales also were up 5.6 percent through the first eight months to 9,241. "Car dealers are sounding much more positive, not only about the future but, in retrospect, about 1992 itself," Crocker said. "As they look back, it seems that 1991 was the bottom they kept hoping to hit since car sales started sliding in the late '80s."
 Home-building in the Triad was up 20 percent through June. Forsyth reported its best first half since 1988 with 721 permits, while Guilford County had its best first half in three years with 1,244 permits. Guilford permitted 303 apartment units through June, a 482.7 percent increase over last year, but still less than half the level permitted in the mid 1980s. Forsyth has permitted only two apartment units this year. Demand for apartments, however, appears to be rising, Crocker said.
 Commercial construction is lagging the recovery, with $22 million permitted in Forsyth through June and $59.7 million permitted in Guilford in the first half. Those totals lag even the slow pace of 1991 and are well below the pace of the mid-1980s.
 In its forecast, First Union is calling for:
 -- Unemployment to move down slowly but
 consistently -- slowly, because the Triad's
 available labor force is likely to continue to
 grow at a higher-than-typical pace;
 -- Total employment to pick up its growth rate
 through next year, with new highs in total
 employment in 1993;
 -- Spurts of commercial and multifamily
 construction early next year, with home-building
 continuing at a steady upward trend;
 -- Car and truck sales to improve through the last
 part of 1992 and be solid in 1993;
 -- Retail sales to end the year with a gain of 7.5
 to 9 percent in the two main Triad counties and
 a more consistent retail climate coming in 1993;
 -- And with the pick-up in activity in the Triad's
 economic development offices, 1993 may be a very
 strong year for Triad economic growth.
 First Union National Bank of North Carolina is a principal subsidiary of Charlotte-based First Union Corporation (NYSE:FTU and FTUpr) and operates 270 offices in more than 140 North Carolina Communities.
 -0- 9/9/92
 /CONTACT: Media Contact, Sandy Deem, First Union Corporation, 704-374-2710/
 (FTU) CO: First Union Corporation ST: North Carolina IN: FIN SU: ECO


JZ -- CH002 -- 7537 09/09/92 13:07 EDT
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Date:Sep 9, 1992
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