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Workers Wanted: North Carolina Adds 100,000 Jobs Over Past Year

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RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina's economy continues to produce new jobs at a rate among the fastest in the United States even though the state's unemployment increased slightly in June.

Some 11,700 jobs were added last month, reflecting a year-old surge that has added more than 100,000 people to the employment ranks.

"That is pretty darn good," said economist James Smith, who has earned a reputation as one of the most accurate economic forecasters in the country.

"This means we are offering our own graduates more opportunities to stay in North Carolina - and attracting graduates from other states," added Smith, a former professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill who now lives in the western part of the state. "We are an in-sourcing beneficiary."

Citing growth in such areas as professional services, Smith said IBM and Credit Suisse, a recent addition to the state's high-tech sector, and other firms are driving employment numbers up.

Figures compiled by the state's North Carolina Employee Security Commission and the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics show North Carolina ranked fifth among the 50 states in new job growth from June of 2005 through June 30 of this year.

Of the net increase in new jobs, 20,000 were created in the Raleigh-Cary metro area.

Only Florida (270,900), Texas (259,900), California (235,600) and Arizona (122.200) added more jobs.

Michael Walden, an economist at North Carolina State University, said the growth in jobs could be expected to slow as the economy continues to lose steam. The U.S. gross domestic product grew at a 2.5 percent rate in the second quarter, down from the 5.6 percent of the first quarter, as higher interest rates, slower consumer spending and higher energy costs hit consumers and businesses.

However, Walden praised the year-to-year job growth.

"That is a big number," he said of the 100,300 jobs. The net increase reflects the fact that the state has already absorbed over the past several years most of the impact in cuts that could be made in tobacco, textiles, manufacturing and furniture with growth in other sectors, such as services, healthcare and education, more than making up the difference.

"There is not much left to cut," he said, referring to the traditional drivers of the state's economy. "It has taken a while because for so long the cuts were overwhelming the gains."

North Carolina's unemployment rate did increase slightly last month to 4.8 percent, based on figures that were not seasonally adjusted for such factors as students out of college and teachers not working during the summer. That rate was up from 4.6 percent in May but still below the 5.1 percent - the highest of the year - in February.

The 11,700 jobs produced in June of this year was the third highest total in the country behind Texas (30,000) and Minnesota (14,700).

The yearlong increase in jobs is impressive, said Larry Parker, a spokesman for the NCESC.

"That is very encouraging," he said of surge. "We like to look at trends rather than month-to-month when gauging the strength of the economy."

Job growth is especially strong in education and healthcare, but in the Charlotte and Raleigh-Cary metropolitan areas professional services are expanding at a brisk rate.

Last month, Raleigh-Cary produced a net 1,500 new jobs with 1,100 of those coming in leisure and hospitality and 400 in professional and business services. Education and government jobs dipped by 1,600. The unemployment rate did climb to 3.6 percent from 3.4 percent in May.

However, over the past year, the professional and business services sector has added 5,600 jobs - an increase of 7.4 percent. Other major increases included education and health services (2,900), trade, transportation and utilities (2,800), government (2,300), leisure and hospitality (1,900), other services (1,600), natural resources, mining and construction (1,200), financial activities (1,100) and manufacturing (600).

In Charlotte, 1,400 professional and business services jobs were added in June even as the metro area dropped 5,300 jobs due to decreases in government, education and health services. Over the past 12 months, 4,600 professional and business services jobs have been created.

Durham showed a drop of 800 jobs last month. But since June of 2005 Durham has added 2,000 professional and business service jobs alone. Since June of 2005, Durham has added 7,800 jobs. Payrolls in manufacturing (1,800) and education and health services (1,800). The June unemployment rate climbed slightly to 3.9 percent from 3.8 percent the previous month.

Across the state, a net increase of 15,000 professional and business services jobs were added across the state's metropolitan areas since June of 2005. Another 14,600 education and health services jobs were created in the same time frame.