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Asheville's Economy Update

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6/22/2007 - Asheville's Economy Update
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ASHEVILLE - Asheville could weather any national recession well, with moderate job growth and continued high appreciation in home values, economic experts said Wednesday.

In the eighth annual Asheville Metro Economy Outlook, Tom Tveidt, director of the Asheville Metro Business Research Center of the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce, presented his yearly report card on the economy.

This year, James F. Smith, the new chief economist for Parsec Financial and a noted national forecaster, joined the program at the Diana Wortham Theatre, offering his take on the national and international economies.

Bucking the conventional wisdom of other forecasters, Smith continues to predict a short recession, which may have already started this month. He also predicts a roaring comeback for the economy starting in the fall, with 4.5 percent growth next year.

Smith sees little job loss compared with the 2001 recession, predicting the national unemployment rate will perhaps hit 5.4 percent.

At about 3.4 percent this month, Asheville unemployment remains well below state and national averages, Tveidt said. "We see a real tight market for skilled labor."

Manufacturers and even health care providers are having trouble finding enough skilled workers.

The surprise this year is the turnaround in manufacturing, which has been hemorrhaging about 1,000 jobs a year for the past decade.

Local factories in 2006 added about 50 new jobs, part of the 2,700 new jobs added across the metro economy, Tveidt said.

The Asheville metropolitan area includes Buncombe, Madison, Haywood and Henderson counties with total employment of about 174,000 workers, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The professional and business sector added about 1,000 new jobs in 2006, especially in high-paying positions in engineering and computer design, Tveidt said.

Asheville ranks 12th in the nation among metropolitan areas for home appreciation, Smith said.

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