RALEIGH – North Carolina Department of Commerce officials say the state is ahead of schedule in paying off its debt to the federal government.
“It’s been a good year in terms of paying off the debt,” says Division of Employment Security assistant secretary Dale Folwell. “We’re almost $100 million ahead of expectation.”
That’s important, he says, because “as long as this debt’s outstanding, employers in North Carolina–or future employers who are thinking about coming here–have to pay a higher federal unemployment tax.”
Following the recessions of 2001 and 2008, North Carolina borrowed heavily from the federal government to pay state unemployment benefits. By January of this year, the resulting debt had reached $2.5 billion—third highest in the nation behind only New York and California.
Governor Pat McCrory made paying off the debt a priority, and researchers estimated that the debt would be reduced to about $2 billion by the end of the year—but Folwell says it’s now even less than that, about $1.87 billion.
The focus on debt reduction came at the expense of other programs, but Folwell says the debt puts North Carolina at a competitive disadvantage when it comes to attracting new businesses or retaining existing ones, so paying it off is important—and it’s equally important to prevent it from happening again.
“Paying off the debt–we can’t stop there,” he says. “We have to build a surplus, so that no one ever gets in this situation again.”
If the latest projections hold, the state will pay off the debt in full by November of 2015.http://chapelboro.com/news/state-government/nc-ahead-schedule-paying-federal-debt/
ORANGE COUNTY – The Department of Commerce says tourism reached an all-time high in Orange County last year.
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Executive Director of the Orange County Visitors Bureau, Laurie Paolicelli says the industry generated about 161 million dollars last calendar year.
Paolicelli says the spending trend has continued this year.
“We’ve seen almost double digit increases,” Paolicelli says. “We’re right at about nine percent. This past June we were astounded that we were close to 85 percent occupancy rates in Orange County.”
Paolicelli attributes the increase to businesses reopening their pocket books after a recession hit wallets hard in 2009.
“When we see more business travel, when we see the governor, and the chancellor, and education saying that it’s okay to travel again, all of that has greatly contributed to our success,” Paolicelli says.
Orange County continued to advertise and remained on businesses’ radars when money was tight. Paolicelli says this made it memorable when businesses were ready to spend again.
“The key for us is that when the economy is down, that’s when you really advertise; because you know when the economy comes back, people remember all that you advertised,” Paolicelli says.
Paolicelli says she collaborates with the local hotel industry to focus on bringing in tourists during the work week.
“An area like a college town will generally do well on weekends,” Paolicelli says. “But then you have to fill those properties Sunday through Thursday, and we have over 1500 rooms here. That’s when you want to look at your medical business, and your business travel. That is a big part of any hotel’s budget.”
Paolicelli says she is already thinking about the future. She says she plans to continue reaching out to businesses and organizations. There are several groups on the checklist, but she emphasizes one in particular:
“I think LGBT holds very strong potential for Orange County, and I don’t believe we’re tapping into that,” Paolicelli says. “We have an openly gay mayor in Chapel Hill, and we are not attracting that growing segment nationally to the degree that we could.”
Paolicelli says hotels are filling up without needing to offer discounted prices. That’s one of many reasons spending has reached record highs.
“We had to discount during the recession, but we’re starting to see our rate come back now. Everything from our streets, to our trees, to our paths… it’s a special experience here, and people are willing to pay for it.”http://chapelboro.com/news/local-government/orange-county-tourism-increases-in-wake-of-recession/
RALEIGH – County unemployment rates across the state rose in the first month of the new year, but Orange County remains the state leader.
The North Carolina Department of Commerce Division of Employment Security announced Friday that Orange County’s seasonally unadjusted rate of 6.6 percent is still the best in the state, almost a full point ahead of Chatham County that came in at number two. However, compared to a year ago, numbers rose slightly.
In January 2012, Orange County saw a jobless rate of 6.2 percent. The biggest jump came between December 2012 and January 2013 in which the county saw a 0.7 percent increase. Since the rates are not adjusted for seasonal employment, an increase of that size is not unlikely.
Graham County’s unemployment rate was the highest in January at 20.4 percent.
All of the state’s 14 metro areas saw increases to open the year as well, but the Durham-Chapel Hill area was the best. This part of the triangle saw a rate of 7.7 percent which matches the rate from a year ago. In second was the Raleigh-Cary area, which saw a rate 0.3 worse than Durham-Chapel Hill.
RALEIGH – For the first time in seven months, the state unemployment rate saw a slight increase, according to a report from the NC Department of Commerce released Monday morning.
Compared to the final month of 2012, North Carolina’s January jobless rate rose from 9.4 to 9.5 percent, which is 0.1 better than a year ago. The seasonally adjusted number of people with jobs grew by nearly 3,000 people while those without grew by more than 6,000.
The national average saw its first climb in three months after holding steady at 7.8 percent since November. The US jobless rate is 7.9 percent, which is 0.4 better than a year ago.
The county-by-county numbers for January are scheduled to be released on Friday and February’s statewide numbers will be announced next Thursday.