Report says Hickory area jobs may not recover for a decade

HICKORY, NC  (WBTV) – A study prepared for the U.S. Conference of Mayors' annual meeting had a bleak prediction for the unemployment outlook in the Hickory metro area.

It said unemployment levels won't reach pre-recession levels for another decade.

The HIS Global Insight research firm put the hickory metro area near the bottom in the road for recovery nationwide.

"Honestly, it's hard to predict that far out," said Ronnie Grantham, manager of the Employment Security Commission office in Catawba County. "We are actually starting to see some positive things economy-wise around here."

The unemployment rate has dropped two percentage points in the past year and no major layoffs have been announced from any companies during that time, she said.

"We still have a long way to go but we are making progress," she said.

Sisters Kathy and Salina Chang were looking through job listings at the ESC office Monday. "I don't see the economy getting any better," said Kathy.

Salina echoed that and added that the ten year time frame for recovery "seems right to me."

Teresa Hess disagrees with that assessment. She has been out of full-time work for almost two years. Hess has worked with several temp agencies during that time and she said Monday more jobs are popping up in the listings.

"They are there, more than before." Hess said people looking to catch on full time are still having a tough time, though,  because "many companies are just using temp services and are afraid to hire full time and when there are openings so many people are applying for them it 's hard to make a difference."

As things improve, whenever that is, say officials, they don't expect major growth in the manufacturing sector.

That was the hardest hit by the recession with thousands of jobs lost and people heading back to school to learn new trades.

"Our growth right now has been in the service sector, call centers and things like that," said Grantham.

Some manufacturers are hiring but not in large amounts.  Grantham said local economic officials are working to lure new businesses in but admits it is a slow process.

"Recovery will take time, "said Grantham.

She believes predicting just how long it will take is just a guess, not a fact.

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