For the second year in a row, area research economist Tom Tveidt delivered his state of Haywood County’s economy address — a rare look at the county’s individual resources and statistics.
Typically, economic data is collected for the region as a whole or into a metropolitan statistical area, meaning Haywood County is grouped with surrounding counties. That skews the final numbers or conclusions about its economy.
Hundreds of people stood in line, some for more than an hour, outside Harrah’s Cherokee Casino and Hotel last Wednesday waiting to enter and try their luck — at getting a job.
What to say about 2009? How about this: it ended on a high note for the overall economy, and that is good for the citizens of this country and this region.
Here’s a sampling of the business news that bodes well for the coming year. A report released Jan. 4 from the Commerce Department shows that the U.S. manufacturing sector grew in November at its fastest pace in four years. That was the fifth consecutive month of growth for the U.S. manufacturing sector.
Overall, the economy is beginning to grow. Fourth quarter figures are not tabulated yet, but the U.S. economy grew by 2.2 percent in the third quarter (July through September 2009). That news came on the heels of four consecutive quarters of a shrinking economy, the worst four-quarter performance since the 1930s.
We’re still losing jobs, but that may end soon. Economists expect data released this week to show that about 8,000 jobs were lost in December after 11,000 were eliminated in November. In the first quarter of 2009, the U.S. economy was shedding about 500,000 jobs a month, so businesses large and small seem to have reached their new employment level.
Although there are still many weak areas — particularly construction spending, which has fallen to its lowest level since July 2003 — overall this economy feels like it is moving forward. In Haywood County, four of the last five months have seen an increase in the number of houses sold — year over year — and an increase in the dollar value of those homes. As houses move and the backlog of available properties decreases, that should lead to a corresponding increase in construction spending. Similar increases, slight though some of them are, are being reported in other Western North Carolina counties.
The stock market is making up for the losses of the last couple of years, and the Federal Reserve has made a point of saying interest rates are going to remain low.
Here’s why the economic news is good for everyone. First, families and individuals will feel the benefit as the rising tide lifts almost all ships. As those still employed feel more secure in their jobs and as some employers even make new hires, these people can plan ahead for their family’s well being rather than continue living paycheck to paycheck. Those who have dropped health insurance or quit saving for their retirement or their kids’ college can once again look to the future and put a few bucks away.
Small businesses, brutalized over the last couple of years, may finally have the funds to begin making purchases and getting caught up on the debt accumulated from just staying alive. The economic benefits from these small companies becoming confident can lift entire communities.
And as families and small businesses get better off, tax revenues to local, state and federal coffers will increase. Many detest taxes of every kind, but we also believe that quality public schools, community colleges and universities, well-maintained law enforcement and rescue departments, the continued delivery of social services and public healthcare services, and a strong public sector make for a stronger economy and stronger communities. Government at all levels needs money, and as the business climate brightens so do the prospects for government workers and all the public services that help make this country such a unique place.
We don’t want a return to the falsely inflated economy of two years ago. What we need is a slow, steady turnaround that rewards those with good habits, fosters a healthy business climate and provides opportunity for those willing to work for it. The beginning of 2010 points to just such a scenario.
Last week’s announcement that 61 new jobs are coming to Sylva with the expansion of Jackson Paper is relief for a town hurting from the closing of the T&S Hardwoods sawmill that employed 75.
Stonewall Packaging LLC, a joint venture of Jackson Paper, is investing more than $17 million to build a second plant in Sylva.
Witness to the tough job climate, the Employment Security Commission Office in Sylva was filled Monday with people looking for work.
Jackson Papers, which currently employs 119, makes corrugated cardboard from recycled paper. The 61 jobs will come to Jackson Paper over a three-year period and pay an average of $39,344, better than the county’s average annual wage of $27,820.
Not only is this good news for Sylva but also for the manufacturing sector in general, which has had large declines in North Carolina and across the nation over the past decade.
According to a report from the N.C. Department of Commerce, manufacturing jobs in the state declined by 80,100 or 10.7 percent in 2001, partially due to the jobs going overseas.
During the seven year period beginning in 2001, manufacturing employment decreased by nearly 210,000, but the state added approximately 25,000 jobs in the finance sector, 85,000 jobs in the professional sector, and 130,000 jobs in health and education, reflecting the transition and diversification of the economy.
But don’t count manufacturing out yet.
A report on manufacturing from North Carolina State University states, “Manufacturing continues to be the leading contributor to North Carolina’s Gross Domestic Product at 18.6 percent, although that represents a decline of 5.7 percent from 1997 to 2007. Manufacturing continues to employ the most people at 16.7 percent of the total workforce, providing above-average wage jobs to more than 535,000 individuals.”
Of the 10,567 manufacturing companies in North Carolina, almost 80 percent have 50 or fewer employees.
A manufacturer in Waynesville, Haywood Vocational Opportunities, also recently announced that it would be expanding with the construction of a second plant and creating 50 new jobs. HVO currently employs 315.
The new jobs will be good for the area that is seeing double-digit unemployment. Jackson’s unemployment was at 10.3 percent in January, the latest figures available. That’s up 5.2 percent from the year before, accounting for 2,028 without a job.
By Julia Merchant • Staff Writer
Looking to start your own business? You should do well in Western North Carolina. Seeking a job in traditional manufacturing? Good luck, experts say — it won’t be easy to find.
By Julia Merchant • Staff Writer
A round of layoffs struck Evergreen Packaging (formerly Blue Ridge Paper) last week when officials cut the positions of 28 salaried employees outright and decided to eliminate 122 hourly positions through attrition.
Today’s economy is amazingly complex. Niches of the most obscure order have been found and filled, giving birth to a spectrum of jobs most people don’t realize existed.
By Sarah Kucharski • Staff Writer
Turn to the classified pages in any Western North Carolina newspaper and the employment section bears similar traits. Jobs listed tend to be those in the growing service sector — housekeepers, night shift hotel clerks, secretaries, wait staff, retail sales. And listings under the “professional” heading are sparse.