Economist predicts continued, slow recovery in NC

by: Linzi Sheldon Updated:

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. —

UNC Charlotte economist John Connaughton predicted a continued, slow recovery in North Carolina that could take four or even five more years to regain jobs lost in 2008 and 2009.

"We're on the edge," he said in his quarterly forecast. "I mean, seriously. We've got all we can handle and keep the economy in a positive territory."

Connaughton expects North Carolina's unemployment, currently at 9.6 percent and above the national average, to tick up to 9.7 percent by the end of the year.

Back in June, Connaughton predicted the state would add 63,500 jobs.

But on Tuesday, he said he expects it to be closer to 49,500.

"What changed? Europe. Europe was the first thing that really hit us," he said.

Connaughton told the crowd at UNC Charlotte Center City that the financial crisis in Europe hurt consumer confidence.

He said now higher gas prices will slow growth for the rest of 2012, and with companies hesitant to hire, he said job hunters should try to be entrepreneurial and become self-employed.

That's not an option for Valerie Officer.

"It's rough," she said. "It's very rough."

Officer said the skyrocketing price of gas hasn't helped her looking for a position as a cashier. She's been unemployed since February 2011 and said she thought things were supposed to be getting better in the near future.

"It makes me feel bad -- makes me feel real bad," she said.

Connaughton said if Washington doesn't extend the Bush tax cuts, he believes things could get even worse.

"You're saying we could very easily drop into a recession?" Eyewitness News asked.

"Yeah," he said. "Yup."

Connaughton is predicting slightly better job numbers in 2013.

He expects North Carolina to add nearly 70,000 jobs, which is still well below numbers the state recorded before 2008.

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