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Article Published: Nov. 4, 2010 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011

WNC economic recovery remains rough

Western North Carolina's economic activity increased 0.9 percent in August, the largest increase since July 2007. The increase follows three months of declines that totaled 0.6 percent, but as in past months, the Western North Carolina Economic Index paints a mixed picture of the region's recovery from the recent recession.

"Even a typical recovery can be slow to generate significant job growth, so in this slow and bumpy recovery, job growth is not happening at the moment and we may be waiting some time before we begin seeing it," said Dr. Todd Cherry, a co-author of the report and director of the Center for Economic Research and Policy Analysis at Appalachian State University.

The index, compiled at Appalachian, tracks the level of economic activity in 25 western North Carolina counties.

"While the index registered a large increase, the entire report gives mixed signals," Cherry said. "The good news is that the mixed signals are an improvement from the last few months. By avoiding another bad month, concerns of a downward trend are alleviated, at least for now."

According to the index, seasonally adjusted employment for western North Carolina increased 0.19 percent in August, which follows two consecutive months of declines. Statewide adjusted employment decreased 0.4 percent.

Mapping the growth in employment over the preceding month provides a county-level account of job creation. Changes in seasonally adjusted county-level employment during the month were mixed across the region, falling in 15 of the 25 WNC counties. Yancey, Alleghany and Clay counties had the largest gains in employment (1.76, 0.78 and 0.57 percent). Watauga, Rutherford and Graham counties had the largest losses (0.72, 0.70 and 0.46 percent).

"The lack of jobs and job creation remain a significant problem," Cherry said. "Western North Carolina lost more than 50,000 jobs during the recession, which is about 8 percent of all jobs in the region. We have seen some improvement, but we have a lot of ground to catch up."
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State's roadways cleaned during Fall Sweep

State residents and interstate travelers will notice thousands of miles of cleaner highways as a result of the Fall Litter Sweep conducted by the North Carolina Division of Prisons. In total, prison inmates collected 32,456 bags of litter along 3,648 miles of roadway during the Fall Litter Sweep 2010 from Sept. 18 to Oct. 2.

State prison facilities contributed 46,664 inmate man hours to the litter reduction efforts, Division of Prisons Director Bob Lewis announced this week.

"The appreciation of the citizens of North Carolina is apparent after each of our Litter Sweeps based on comments received by this agency and by the Department of Transportation," Lewis said. "The results of the Fall Litter Sweep are yet another example of the excellent cooperation and dedication we continually see from our employees when faced with important challenges."

Each year, the Litter Sweep is conducted during the fall and spring. Adopt-a-Highway volunteers, local governments, schools, churches, businesses, concerned citizens and inmates conduct community cleanups in all 100 counties across the state.

N.C. School Report Cards released

The North Carolina "School Report Cards" for the 2009-10 school year were released Oct. 28 by the N.C. Department of Public Instruction.

School Report Cards provide school data for end-of-grade and end-of-course test results, teacher qualifications, average class sizes, and school safety.

Copies of a "snapshot" summary of School Report Card results will be available in each school in the Watauga County Schools (WCS) system and will also be posted on school websites. The website for any school in the WCS system can be accessed through the "Schools" link on the WCS homepage at

The School Report Cards show that student achievement in the WCS system continues to exceed that of most students in North Carolina.
For the school system as a whole, 85.8 percent of students in grades 3-8 scored at or above grade level proficiency on the end-of-grade tests in reading, compared to 70.1 percent statewide.
In math, 91.4 percent of WCS students in grades 3-8 scored at or above grade level proficiency, compared to 81.8 percent statewide.

In the fifth grade science test, 88.4 percent of WCS students scored at or above proficiency versus 68.9 percent of students statewide. For the eighth grade science test, 87.2 percent of WCS students scored at or above proficiency, compared to 72.8 percent statewide.

For high schools, end-of-course tests in eight academic subjects are North Carolina's principal measure of student performance.

At Watauga High School, 88.9 percent of all end-of-course test results were in the proficient range or higher, compared to 80.7 percent statewide. Students at Watauga High School outperformed their statewide peers on each of the eight subjects tested: English I, Algebra I, Algebra II, U.S. History, Geometry, Civics and Economics, Biology and Physical Science.

Watauga High School students also compare favorably on SAT scores and the graduation rate. The average Watauga High School SAT score of 1096 (critical reading and mathematics combined) was significantly above the state average of 1008. The high school's graduation rate increased to 82.0 percent for 2009-10, while the statewide rate was 74.2 percent.

The complete Report Card results for schools across the state are available online at

Veterans Day ceremony held Nov. 11 at Appalachian

Appalachian State University will host a Veterans Day ceremony Thursday, Nov. 11, beginning at 7:30 a.m. at the Veterans Memorial located on the west side of Dougherty Administration Building on campus.

Dr. Al Harris, a professor in the Department of Computer Information Systems at Appalachian, will be guest speaker. Harris was commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1966 during the height of the Vietnam War. He served as supply officer, ordnance officer and reaction platoon officer for the 3rd Combat Engineer Battalion at the Gia Lai combat base, located southwest of Hue, Vietnam. He was promoted to captain in 1969 and left military service in 1970.

Harris has been a member of the faculty at Appalachian since 1989. He is a former chairman of the Department of Computer Information Systems.

A continental breakfast will follow in the Dougherty Administration Building lobby. The public is invited.

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