Business

Triangle jobless rate up in one set data, down in another

Posted March 18, 2011 10:51 a.m. EDT
Updated March 18, 2011 2:30 p.m. EDT

Unemployment

— The Triangle’s unemployment rate either jumped more than half a percentage point or declined slightly in January, based on two sets of data.

Joblessness climbed to 8.3 percent in January from 7.7 percent in December, according to the North Carolina Employment Security Commission. However, the figures are not adjusted for seasonal factors such as holiday hiring and layoffs.

However, the rate fell slightly to 7.8 percent in January from 7.9 percent in December, according to the Bureau of Business Research at East Carolina University.

US Department of Labor data that also adjusted for seasonal factors showed the Triangle gained 1,700 jobs, pointed out North Carolina State University economist Dr. Michael Walden.

Economists and the ESC say seasonally adjusted numbers are a more accurate indicator of job trends.

“It is very important to make typical seasonal adjustments to the jobs data when comparing December and January employment levels,” Walden said. “This is because extra folks are always temporarily hired in December for the Christmas selling season and then let go in January.

“Fortunately, the US Commerce Department's nonfarm payroll job data for
metropolitan areas does make these seasonal adjustments,” he added. “For the
Triangle region these seasonally-adjusted data show an increase of 1,700 jobs in the region for January.”

Walden also reviewed the ECU adjusted job figures and said “they are consistent with the payroll numbers I cited. So I am encouraged by the January job numbers for the Triangle.”

Dr. James Kleckley, director of business reach at ECU’s College of Business, said “one month does not make a trend.”

The ESC pointed out that its unadjusted state unemployment rate was 10.5 percent and joblessness increased in 99 of 100 counties in January. However, Kleckley said job growth is taking place.

“I think that the economy is recovering in NC, but it is a soft recovery,” he said. “For example, if you look at the graphs in the [seasonally adjusted unemployment rate] you can argue that you see a stall in recovery.

“Other indicators, like building permits, have yet to recover,” he added, “and if we don’t have building, we don’t need as many construction workers.”

The unadjusted jobless rate in the Triangle was 7.7 percent in December. The ECU reported an adjusted rate of 7.9 percent.

Larry Parker, a spokesperson for the ESC, said the January data likely reflected drops in holiday payrolls. But he also noted that “most job sectors are down … it’s across the board," including drops in government. 

"We reviewed the Not Seasonally Adjusted over the month decrease in State Government," Parker explained. "The majority of the change in Government is due to a decrease in State Government Educational Services. Between December and January we experienced a decline in employment in state colleges and universities. This is a seasonal issue. Last year we also experienced a similar trend in State Government Education Services. That is we had a similar seasonal decline between December 2009 and January 2010.

"We also reviewed the Not Seasonally Adjusted over the month decrease in Trade. The over the month change was due mainly to a decrease in Retail Trade. Keep in mind that we typically see a decline in Retail Trade employment between December and January.

"This decline can be mainly attributed to the change in seasonal employment in retail stores that occurs between December and January."

The January unadjusted rate of 8.3 percent was the highest since 8.7 percent in March of last year.

A year earlier, the unadjusted rate was 9.3 percent vs. an adjusted rate of 8.8 percent.

The seasonally adjusted rate for NC in January was 9.9 percent, according to the ESC’s announcement made last week.

In the new report, North Carolina shed 28,491 jobs in January, leaving 3.97 million on payrolls. Meanwhile, the number of people listed as unemployed surged by 34,897 to 463,492.

Unemployment also rose in all the state’s major metropolitan areas.

• Asheville — 8.9 percent, up from 7.9 percent in December.
• Burlington — 10.8 percent, up from 10.1 percent.
• Charlotte-Gastonia-Rock Hill NC-SC — 11.1 percent, up from 10.7 percent.
• Durham-Chapel Hill — 7.6 percent, up from 6.9 percent.
• Fayetteville — 9.7 percent, up from 9 percent.
• Goldsboro — 8.9 percent, up from 8.2 percent.
• Greensboro-High Point — 10.9 percent, up from 10.2 percent.
• Greenville — 10.1 percent, up from 9.5 percent.
• Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton — 12.8 percent, up from 12.4 percent.
• Jacksonville — 9 percent, up from 7.8 percent
• Raleigh-Cary — 8.3 percent, up from 7.8 percent.
• Rocky Mount — 13.1 percent, up from 12.6 percent.
• Wilmington — 10.6 percent, up from 9.9 percent.
• Winston-Salem — 10.1 percent, up from 9.2 percent.