Cover Story: Two years since recession ended?

By Jeff Atkinson - bio l email

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - They say the recession is over.  They say it's been over for two years.  Do you believe it?  Where's the light at the end of this tunnel?

Two years ago this month the experts said the Great Recession technically came to an end.

But today trying telling that to the unemployed, the drivers who pay 4 bucks a gallon, the struggling homeowners.

It's like having the flu and your doctor telling you you're just fine.

You might be asking, when are we gonna get better?

Just as this wasn't your typical recession, this isn't a typical recovery.  Many people aren't feeling the recovery.

Are we close? Or are we still a long way away?

"Hello, I'm George Couchell.. founder of Showmars."

He works the room just like he did when he first got into the food business 44 years ago.  The founder of Showmars, George Couchell.

At one time it was the fastest-growing restaurant chain in the Charlotte area.

The recession took those plans off the table.  Still "Mr. C." (as he's affectionately known) says they weathered it better than most.

"We saw a bit of softness early on.. but we held up well," he said.

Like Walmart weathered the recession - luring people with low prices, Showmars did the same for people who want to eat out.

And so if you want a barometer of where the recovery is now it's a good place to poll.

"We have done much much better than most. Matter of fact this past three to four months we've seen an uptick in our business," said Couchell.

More people are opening up their wallets feeling better about the future.

Still though two years since the Great Recession technically ended we don't feel like we're in a recovery.

Unemployment is still stubbornly high.  (9.8% in Mecklenburg County).

Gas prices are a dollar a gallon higher over where they were a year ago.

And food prices are headed that way.

Couchell told us his hamburger meat has gone up 20% in the last three months.  It all concerns him.

"The uncertainty. The uncertainty. I feel like we're over the hump.. but yet you see all these other indications," he said.

Is a double dip in the offing?

Kenny Colbert who heads The Employers Association a human resources consulting group hears from local employers large and small.

"I'm not hearing from any companies that are really worried about a double dip," Colbert told us.

What would get us feeling better?  He says local unemployment to drop below 8%.  Gas to come down.  And the housing market to stabilize.

There are others, both those are the big three.

A majority of Charlotteans are optimistic - it's just going to take time.

"If you look around at our members and the amount of money they're spending on equipment, hiring people giving back the pay increases they took away.. giving the 401(k) matches that they took away.. that's a very very positive sign," said Colbert.

You want to get a sense of how hungry people are for a job out there?

A local company held a job fair Wednesday advertising a dozen positions.  They were expecting about 150 people.  650 people showed up.

It caught them off guard

We did an unscientific poll on our website today.  And the results follow along the lines of our story.  Almost 40% of those responded say the recession never ended.

One-third say they've seen improvement, but it's no where near where we need to be.

If you'd like to vote, look for our poll on

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