Business

N.C. jobless rate dips to 10.8% but picture ‘mixed,’ economist says

Posted December 18, 2009 10:32 a.m. EST
Updated December 18, 2009 1:35 p.m. EST

— The jobless rate in North Carolina dipped again slightly in November to 10.8 percent, the state Employment Security Commission reported Friday.

The unemployment rate fell below 11 percent to 10.9 percent when the percentage was revised downward from previous reports.

Employment in the state grew by 12,453 people while unemployment dropped by 6,823, based on a survey of households, the ESC reported.

However, the ESC also noted that initial claims for unemployment benefits jumped by 14 percent, or more than 10,500, in November to 88,938 from October.

Of the new claims, some 53 percent were “attached,” which implies the companies laying off those workers expect to rehire them.

Dr. Michael Walden, an economist at N.C. State University, described the state’s jobs picture as “mixed” and stood by his longstanding belief that an improvement in hiring is still months away.

“The news is still mixed in the job market, which is the usual case before we get a shift in the trend,” he told WRAL.com and Local Tech Wire. “My forecast is still that jobs won't consistently return to NC until the first quarter of 2010. Also, when that occurs, don't be surprised if the unemployment rises as ‘discouraged workers’ begin looking for work again.”

Discouraged workers include people who have lost their jobs or are new or returning to the work force and have given up on finding a position.

Walden reviewed week-by-week initial claims and pointed out that during the week of Dec. 5 those claims “took a jump.” However, he also pointed out that the “multiple week average is still declining.”

Contrary to the statewide household survey which showed an increase in employment, Walden also pointed out that a separate survey of employers showed a decline in jobs of more than 8,000 to 3,920,000.

These figures, which are seasonally adjusted to reflect seasons and weather among other factors, are “more telling” about the actual job climate, according to a spokesperson for the ESC.

“Today's household unemployment report for NC showed job gains and a slight drop in the unemployment rate,” Walden noted. “However, the employer survey showed a decline in jobs in North Carolina for November.”

State Employment Security Commission Chairman Moses Carey Jr. stressed that more jobs are needed.

“Even though employment increased slightly over the month, we still need more job growth,” Carey said in a statement. “It’s another month where we haven’t experienced much change.

The unemployment rate a year ago stood at 7.5 percent.

Nationally, the jobless rate slipped slightly in November to 10 percent.

North Carolina did add 1,900 education and health services and 800 construction jobs last month but lost some 4,800 jobs in leisure and hospitality and another 3,900 in manufacturing.

The average hourly wage fell 13 cents to $15.78 in November, but the average number of hours worked grew to 39.5 from 39.1 the previous month.