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Mecklenburg County leaders get economic forecast

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CHARLOTTE--The outlook is bright in Mecklenburg County.

That was the message delivered by two economists during the board of County Commissioners annual retreat Thursday, however, growth remains slow.

"Mecklenburg County outlook going forward is looking better than the U.S. and the state as a whole, without question," said UNC Charlotte economist Dr. John Connaughton.

County leaders received an updated financial status report at its planning meeting. The economists said the county is doing better when it comes to jobs.

"We've got about 77 percent of the jobs back," said Dr. Connaughton. "So we don't have too many jobs to go before we're out our 2008 peak."

It's not all good news. Many high paying jobs aren't returning according Dr. Connaughton, which leaves county residents with fewer dollars in their pockets than they had five years ago.

"The total wage bill is 15 percent less today than when it all began," said Dr. Connaughton.

County Commissioners said the numbers will help them determine policy and budgeting over the next year.

"We can make it as affordable as possible for our residents to live here so they have as much disposable income as possible," said Republican commissioner Karen Bentley.

Democrat Dumont Clarke was encouraged by the numbers.

"Local government need to work collaboratively with our partners in the area who are focused on economic development and creating jobs," said Clarke.

The budget director says sales tax revenues are up 5.5% over last year. Property tax revenue is down, but that's because of a decrease in the property tax rate.

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