February was brutal for bank workers as the Charlotte area shed 2,900 finance and insurance jobs – a loss nearly triple the size of any suffered before. But preliminary data for March indicates a calm, with finance jobs in the region essentially flat.
That stark contrast, along with interviews with more than a dozen industry experts, suggest the future of "banktown" jobs lies somewhere between wholesale slaughter and a sudden rebound. For the rest of this year at least, the area will continue to lose finance jobs, the bank watchers say. The addition of some smaller finance employers – including New York-based Sagent Advisors, which announced Tuesday its opening of a Charlotte office – won't come near to making up for those losses.
But in the long run, the industry players say, financial companies will recover and Charlotte will continue to attract more of them, thanks to attributes that have worked in its favor before, such as a skilled work force and a low cost of living.
"Is Charlotte going to be the pillar of strength that it was a few years ago? In the near term, no," said Gerard Cassidy, an analyst at RBC Capital Markets. " Anyone who thinks Charlotte is going to turn around at the end of the year is being too optimistic."
Bank of America is partly responsible for February's big drop, as it is slashing jobs to deal with the weak economy and its purchase of Merrill Lynch. When Bank of America released earnings Monday, it said it has about 285,000 employees company-wide – a drop of about 17,000 since Dec. 31. The Charlotte bank won't detail where those job cuts were made, though about 2,000 of them were Merrill Lynch financial advisers.
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