Business

Triangle jobless rate dips, but fewer people are working

Posted October 23, 2009 11:16 a.m. EDT
Updated October 23, 2009 6:59 p.m. EDT

— Unemployment in the Triangle metropolitan areas dipped slightly in September to 8.4 percent, according to new data from the North Carolina Employment Security Commission.

In August, the jobless rate stood at 8.6 percent.

However, the jobs picture is not necessarily improving.

The number of people working statewide actually fell by 1,907 in September. Figures were not seasonably adjusted.

What kept the state’s jobless rate from worsening was the fact that unemployment decreased by 13,304 people, to 472,429, as those who were formerly employed either stopped looking for work, are no longer receiving jobless benefits or moved out of state. They are not included in the unemployment rate.

Data released last week by the ESC showed 9,700 more people working based on seasonably adjusted estimate.

“It's too early to say the employment market has improved,” North Carolina State University economist Michael Walden told WRAL News. “While there are many encouraging signs in the economy, such as rising home sales and increased factory output, the job market tends to lag these improvements.”

According to Walden, if “frustrated workers” were counted, the state’s unemployment rate would be 1.2 percentage points higher.

“One issue that always arises when recessions persist is that of ‘discouraged’ or ‘frustrated’ workers – unemployed individuals who are not actively looking for work and therefore are not officially counted as unemployed,” he said.

Josephus Thompson, assistant manager of Cumberland County's ESC office, said he sees many of those discouraged workers.

"From time to time, you get an irate client that comes in and says, 'I'm done,' and they're going to another place to look for work," Thompson said. "Most of these folks, basically, I would say, move out of town looking for work."

Dwayne Ottaway, who has been without a job for six months, is still counted among the unemployed, but he said he is getting increasingly frustrated about his inability to find employment in the Fayetteville area.

"It's been stressful," Ottaway said, adding that he might move if he can't find a job.

"It's kind of hard to put your finger on these folks," Thompson said.

Also, the number of new initial claims for unemployment jumped by 2,900 from August, to 37,242.

“The global and national recession continues to affect our state,” ESC Chairman Moses Carey Jr. said in a statement. “While 76 counties across North Carolina experienced an unemployment rate decrease, we must remember that most of these same counties remain at a high rate. We’re encouraged by some recent job announcements, but we are also aware of some continued layoffs.”

Unemployment will swell a bit in November when Dell begins laying off most of its 905 workers at its computer assembly plant in Winston-Salem.

The number of people working in the Raleigh-Cary metro area actually dipped by 100. An increase of 2,500 government jobs and 700 education and health services positions was offset by declines in professional and business services (1,000), other services (600), trade, transportation and utilities (600), and leisure and hospitality (500). Information, financial activities, natural resources, mining and construction and manufacturing categories each lost 100 jobs.

The Durham-Chapel Hill metro area reported a net increase of 3,000 jobs. The government sector added 3,000 jobs, and 400 were added in education and health services. However, the professional and business sectors lost 300 jobs. Another 200 jobs were lost in both the leisure and hospitality and trade, transportation and utilities categories.

Orange County helped drive down the rate as its unemployment dipped by a half percentage point, to 6.3 percent.

Wake County’s rate fell to 8.3 percent from 8.5 percent, and Durham County’s unemployment decreased slightly, to 8 percent from 8.1 percent.

Joblessness also decreased in the Raleigh-Cary and Durham-Chapel Hill metros. In the former, it went from 8.7 percent in August to 8.6 percent, and in the latter, it went from 8 percent in August to 7.7 percent.

Statewide, unemployment fell in 76 of 100 counties, and the jobless rate remains well in double digits at 10.4 percent.

The metro area rates:

• Asheville — 8.4 percent, down from 8.6 percent in August.
• Burlington — 11.8 percent, down from 12.1 percent.
• Charlotte-Gastonia-Concord NC-SC — 11.6 percent, down from 11.8 percent.
• Durham-Chapel Hill — 7.7 percent, down from 8 percent.
• Fayetteville — 9.0 percent, down from 9.1 percent.
• Goldsboro — 8.8 percent, down from 8.9 percent.
• Greensboro-High Point — 11.1 percent, down from 11.5 percent.
• Greenville — 10 percent, down from 10.5 percent.
• Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton — 14.1 percent, down from 14.6 percent.
• Jacksonville — 8.3 percent, up from 8.2 percent.
• Raleigh-Cary — 8.6 percent, down from 8.7 percent.
• Rocky Mount — 13.4 percent, down from 13.7 percent.
• Wilmington — 9.7 percent, no change.
• Winston-Salem — 9.8 percent, down from 10 percent.