Construction industry suffers greatest job losses

Posted July 24, 2009 4:57 p.m. EDT
Updated July 24, 2009 5:55 p.m. EDT

— Unemployment rose in June across the Triangle. In Raleigh-Cary, unemployment stood at 9.1 percent. In Durham-Chapel Hill, it was 8.4 percent. Those rates are the highest since the state Employment Security Council has been keeping records, led by drops in construction and related services, manufacturing and professional and business services.

The Raleigh-Cary metropolitan area lost more than 15,000 jobs -- about 9,200 of them in construction -- in the past year, according to ESC data.

Chris Raneri, of Cary, counts himself among the casualties of the recession. Raneri was a construction project manager for six years. He worked for a national builder until he was let go in February.

“I managed the full gamut – from raw land, all the way up to the finished project,” he said.

Now he is volunteering for Habitat for Humanity.

“I have no bitterness,” he said. “It’s a sign of the times.”

David Clegg, deputy chairman of the state Employment Security Commission, said the Triangle is still better off than other parts of the state. Although construction has been hard hit, the diversity of the Triangle economy keeps the news from being much worse, he said.

Fayetteville saw 9.4 percent unemployment and Rocky Mount recorded 14.4 percent.

“The severity of this recession cannot be underestimated,” Clegg said.

Dr. Michael Walden, an economist at North Carolina State University, said the new numbers are grim reminders of just how bad the recession is. “The fact that unemployment rates in the Triangle metropolitan areas have hit record rates tells us how severe this recession has been,” he said.

“Even the high-tech Triangle, which many think has the best economic structure for the 21st century, now has an unemployment rate which many thought was not possible.”

Walden predicted that unemployment in the Triangle would continue to climb through the rest of the calendar year before a slow recovery begins in 2010.