Business

Triangle unemployment dips to 8.6 percent, but 5,200 fewer people have jobs

Posted September 25, 2009 11:45 a.m. EDT
Updated September 26, 2009 9:21 p.m. EDT

— Unemployment in the Triangle fell to 8.6 percent in August from 9.1 percent in July, but the job picture isn’t necessarily improving.

Why? Because more than 5,200 fewer people were working last month and the size of the region’s work force – those people working or seeking jobs – fell by more than 10,000, according to the North Carolina Employment Security Commission.

The number of people working across the Triangle fell to 793,630 in August. Meanwhile, the ranks of those seeking work dropped to 74,662.

North Carolina State University economist Michael Walden said the improvement in the unemployment rate is not a “good reading.”

“We're at that stage of the recession where the unemployment rate really doesn't give us a good reading on the job market,” Walden told WRAL.com and Local Tech Wire. “The problem is - as the recession has lingered and gotten deeper - unemployed persons stop actively looking for work, either because they are discouraged or because no one is hiring.

“And if an unemployed person doesn't actively look for work - by sending out resumes and going on job interviews - they won't ‘officially’ be classified as unemployed and they won't be included in the labor force,” he added.

The ESC acknowledges as well that the labor force shrinks in part as the recession lingers on and people either lose unemployment benefits or stop looking for work – or both.

“Most counties experienced some loss in the labor force,” ESC Chairman Moses Carey Jr. said in a statement. “People moving away and looking for work in other areas, students returning to school or some people exhausting their benefits are reasons for such declines. This can have an impact on the unemployment rate.”

Walden said he is “afraid” unemployment rates have dropped “in many counties simply because everyone who is unemployed is not classified as unemployed.”

As the ESC noted, the number of people working actually declined not only in the Triangle but statewide – by 29,596. Those seeking jobs also fell by more than 24,0000.

“The best measure - now - to gauge the job market is simply the number of jobs, and as of yet, we haven't seen improvement here,” Walden said.

“My forecast is still that noticeable improvement in the job market won't occur until next spring.

“The good news is we can now say that - a year ago there was no near-term outlook for job market improvement.”

Congress is discussing an extension of unemployment benefits nationwide.

North Carolina’s jobless rate dipped to 10.7 percent in August from 11.1 percent in July.

The jobless rate in each of the state’s major metro areas:

• Asheville — 8.5 percent, down from 9 percent in July.
• Burlington — 12.2 percent, down from 12.7 percent.
• Charlotte-Gastonia-Concord NC-SC — 11.8 percent, down from 12.4 percent.
• Durham-Chapel Hill — 8 percent, down from 8.3 percent.
• Fayetteville — 9.1 percent, down from 9.5 percent.
• Goldsboro — 8.9 percent, down from 9.7 percent.
• Greensboro-High Point — 11.6 percent, down from 11.9 percent.
• Greenville — 10.5 percent, down from 10.9 percent.
• Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton — 14.6 percent, down from 15 percent.
• Jacksonville — 8.2 percent, down from 8.8 percent.
• Raleigh-Cary — 8.7 percent, down from 9.1 percent.
• Rocky Mount — 13.8 percent, down from 14 percent.
• Wilmington — 9.7 percent down from 10.1 percent.
• Winston-Salem — 10 percent, down from 10.2 percent.