Charlotte Chamber: County’s 1st-quarter job growth is ‘solid’

The Charlotte Chamber painted a rosy picture of Mecklenburg County’s economy in a report out Monday, saying the region is off to a “solid start” for the first three months of the year.

Already this year, 283 firms added 2,675 jobs – more than double the job growth number from the first quarter of 2015, according to the report from the business group. Total investment in the region was over $415 million.

Here are some other highlights from the report:

▪ The most robust growth came from the retail sector, which added 964 jobs. Hiring in the sector underscores a broader trend: Retail sales in North Carolina surpassed $2 billion for the first time in history, the North Carolina Department of Revenue said.

▪ The area’s unemployment rate was 5.3 percent in January, up from 4.9 percent in December. But economists say seasonal swings are typical around the holidays, and the re-entry of over 7,000 workers into the labor force also pushed the rate up.

▪ Charlotte Douglas International Airport reached a 10-year lease agreement with American Airlines, cementing the airport as major hub for the foreseeable future.

▪ In its report, the Chamber also noted how the expansion plans of commercial real estate firms and corporations reflect their confidence in the local economy.

Beacon Partners, for example, announced plans in March to invest $80 million to build a 1.2-million-square-foot industrial park on the grounds of the Metrolina Expo in north Charlotte. Salisbury-based Food Lion announced plans to spend $215 million to remodel 142 Charlotte-area stores, 33 of which are in Mecklenburg County.

The report did not mention business backlash from North Carolina’s controversial House Bill 2, which was signed into law March 23. PayPal, for example, which was looking to add up to 500 jobs over five years, backed out of its plan to open a Charlotte global operations center because it opposes House Bill 2.

Katherine Peralta: 704-358-5079, @katieperalta