The country may be in a recession but economists say our area is not, as of now. A Wilmington economist told business leaders over breakfast that our area is still growing. As business professionals and area leaders had breakfast Thursday, economists served up their numbers. The good news is that according to UNC-Wilmington Senior Economist Woody Hall, our area is doing relatively well despite the worst national economy since the early 1980s. Hall said, “There are still some components of local economy that are still growing but they are growing less dramatically and not as rapidly as they were in the past there are some sectors of our economy that are seeing decreases.” Hall noted traffic through Wilmington International Airport is up, but not growing as fast as it used to. Traffic increased 5% in 2008. Compare that nationally to an 8.4% drop from September 2008 to September 2007. Our area’s tourism numbers are up too, increasing three percent from 2007. As for the real estate sector, Hall said in the third quarter of 2008, 400 homes were sold monthly in the Wilmington area. During the same period in 2005, 900 homes were sold monthly when the market was super hot. So we've seen a 55% decrease in sales volume over three years, compared to a 29% decrease in sales volume nationally over the same time period. Auto dealerships in New Hanover County sold about 10,000 new cars and trucks this year which is down from 17,000 cars sold last year. That's a 42% drop, compared to the 18% drop dealers saw nationwide. Retail sales continue a downward trend. From August 2007 to August 2008, sales were down 6.6% in New Hanover County, 1.9% in Brunswick County, and 3.9% in Pender. Area unemployment is at it's highest in years. The Wilmington metro area, New Hanover, Brunswick, and Pender counties averaged out at 7.6% in November. Nationwide, the number is at 6.5%. Even so, hall is optimistic. He told the crowd things should improve later this year. “Trust me it will stabilize. The question is when and we will eventually resume growth?” Hall said Wilmington and surrounding areas are not in a recession yet. Our area is still seeing growth. Economists predict the nation’s economy could improve towards the latter part of the year Nationally, retailers are reporting dismal sales for December, confirming fears that the holiday shopping season was the weakest in 40 years.
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