Economist says signs point to economy still struggling

by: Jim Bradley Updated:

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Gas prices have been falling, and overall prices rose just half a percent last month, but an economist Eyewitness News talked with said it's a sign of an economy that's still struggling.

In the back of Kelly Dockery's Suburban is all the evidence she needs to tell her consumer prices are worth watching.

“You'll go in one day and peanut butter is up a $1.50, or milk has gone up $1,” she said.

Dockery was more than a little interested when Eyewitness News told her about Tuesday’s new consumer price index report. It shows prices rose six-tenths of 1 percent in September.

A big part of that increase came from gasoline, which last month surged to an average of $3.86 in North Carolina.

This month, though, gas prices are down 15 to 20 cents a gallon.  Eyewitness News found $3.65 in north Charlotte, and that's putting money back in the pockets of drivers.

Still, UNC Charlotte economist John Connaughton said even encouraging news about modest inflation has a dark side.

“With consumer prices up very, very slowly -- what that's a strong indicator of is a very weak economy, a soft economy, that's basically what we've got,” Connaughton said.

And that's why Dockery is keeping an ever-tightening grip on her wallet.

“We're trying to watch our dollars and we actually, my husband and I have just gone through and re-done our budget and looked to where we can cut back,” she said.