The Charlotte region held its own in August, with nearly all 16 counties experiencing a drop in the unemployment rate from July. As a region, the overall unemployment rate dropped to 11.5 percent from 11.8 percent. However, the Charlotte USA labor force continues to decline, which may indicate residents are still frustrated with their job searches and no longer are categorized as actively looking for work. Initial unemployment claims also declined slightly from July to August, down a dramatic 21 percent from a year ago, according to the Charlotte Regional Partnership’s August By the Numbers at http://www.charlotteusa.com/documents/charlotteusa_by_the_numbers_9-30-2009.pdf Total taxable sales reported throughout the region are 10 percent higher, or nearly $240 million more, than sales reported a year ago. These are all indicators that Charlotte USA’s economy is heading in the right direction. Nationally, the U.S. Consumer Confidence Index, which improved slightly in August, lost ground in September. The Conference Board explained that the pull-back was most likely due to less favorable business and labor market conditions, in addition to a more pessimistic short-term outlook. The Federal Reserve’s Fifth District Survey of Manufacturing Activity that includes our region slowed in September as shipments and employment declined. Yet, despite the decline, companies surveyed were more optimistic about their future prospects, as they anticipate a rapid increase in shipments, new orders, backlog of orders and the average workweek in the months ahead. The Charlotte Regional Partnership’s monthly By the Numbers is the only report of its kind. Easy-to-read charts not only compare employment numbers in the current and prior years for each of our 16 counties, the report breaks down employment changes by industry. It compares the Charlotte region with the other six partnership areas in North Carolina and other major Southeast regions. Charts show at a glance year-to-year comparisons of the national unemployment rate, consumer confidence and home sales indices. The report also summarizes Charlotte USA locations, expansions, closings and layoffs for each month fiscal year-to-date. And there are extras, such as taxable sales within the region.