Business

Jobless rate drops in Triangle, in most counties – But a blip or a trend?

Posted May 29, 2009 11:11 a.m. EDT
Updated May 29, 2009 12:25 p.m. EDT

—  Unemployment eased in a bit in April, including the Raleigh-Cary and Durham-Chapel Hill metropolitan areas, but whether this is a blip or a trend remains to be seen.

Because the data was gathered county by county and was not seasonably adjusted to account for such influences as holidays, weather and school closings, rates are more likely to fluctuate, said Larry Parker, a spokesperson for the North Carolina Employment Security Commission.

The statewide unadjusted jobless rate dipped to 10.5 percent from 11 percent as unemployment fell in 83 of 100 counties. Last week, the adjusted rate was 10.8 percent, the same as in March.

“What we’re seeing over the last couple of months is some decrease initial unemployment claims and we’ve seen a little rise in employment,” Parker said. “As high as the rates are now, it’s not going to take much of a hiring change to affect the rate.

“We’re certainly not out of the woods yet, but it’s nice to see back-to-back months some employment gain.”

In Raleigh-Cary, the jobless rate dipped to 8.3 percent from 8.7 percent in March. The Durham-Chapel Hill rate fell to 7.3 percent from 7.6 percent.

In several area counties, rates also fell:

• Wake 7.9 from 8.2;
• Durham 7.3 from 7.7;
• Orange 5.8 to 6.1 – the state’s lowest;
• Johnston, 10.2 from 10.6;
• Cumberland 8.5 from 9.2;
• Edgecombe 15.3 from 16.2.

However, Parker acknowledged, students will soon be flooding the workforce looking for jobs in a tight employment market across the state, which has one of the nation’s highest jobless rates. On the other hand, tourism-reliant industries are gearing up for the summer, and Parker noted that how much hiring takes place because of the economy will further affect the job picture.

N.C. State University economist Dr. Michael Walden said the latest numbers were encouraging, with more than 47,000 people finding jobs while overall unemployment rolls decreased by 16,000. But he also cautioned that the good news could be temporary.

“The April employment report was certainly good news for North Carolina, with the number of jobs increasing in both the household and employer surveys,” Walden told WRAL.com.

“However, it is much too early to declare a turnaround in the job market,” he explained. “Previous recessions have taught us that job gains can occur in some months only to be followed by deep job cuts. So we would need to see several more consecutive months of employment increases to be optimistic about the job picture.”

In the past, Walden has forecast jobless rate as high as 14 percent for North Carolina. And he’s not predicting a quick turnaround from the 10.5 percent rate.

“Economists still think it won't be until early 2010 that a permanent positive job market picture will occur,” he said.

In reviewing jobs data, Walden noted job gains “were not wide spread.”

“Instead, they were concentrated in two sectors: leisure/hospitality and health care,” he explained. “It may be that firms in the leisure/hospitality industry were gearing up early for the summer season. And health care has remained our best recession-proof industry.”

Unemployment rates in all the state’s metro areas with the exception of Burlington decreased:

• Asheville — 9.0 percent, down from 9.4 percent in March.
• Burlington — 12.0 percent, up from 11.9 percent.
• Charlotte-Gastonia-Concord NC-SC — 11.4 percent, down from 11.6 percent.
• Durham-Chapel Hill — 7.3 percent, down from 7.6 percent.
• Fayetteville — 8.4 percent, down from 9.1 percent.
• Goldsboro — 8.7 percent, down from 9.2 percent.
• Greensboro-High Point — 11.1 percent, down from 11.4 percent.
• Greenville — 10.1 percent, down from 10.5 percent.
• Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton — 14.9 percent, down from 15.4 percent.
• Jacksonville — 7.8 percent, down from 8.3 percent.
• Raleigh-Cary — 8.3 percent, down from 8.7 percent.
• Rocky Mount — 13.7 percent, down from 14.0 percent.
• Wilmington — 9.5 percent down from 10.2 percent.
• Winston-Salem — 9.7 percent, down from 10.2 percent.

Across the state, 44 counties reported rates below the statewide 10.5 figure.