Unemployment numbers show mixed Triangle jobs picture

The state reports a slight increase in the jobless rate for the region in May. Seasonally adjusted data as calculated by East Carolina University shows a drop, but that's not necessarily good news.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Unemployment in the Triangle either rose or decreased slightly in May, according to data released Friday.

More people were working in the region, but more people also were out looking for jobs, the result being a slight increase in the unemployment rate, the North Carolina Employment Security Commission reported.

The jobless rate does not include people who are out of work and have stopped receiving benefits or are no longer seeking employment.

Based on ESC data, unemployment in the Raleigh, Cary, Durham and Chapel Hill combined metropolitan statistical areas increased to 7.8 percent in May from 7.7 percent in April.

In Raleigh-Cary, unemployment grew to 7.9 percent from 7.7 percent. In Chapel Hill-Durham, the jobless rate inched up to 7.2 percent – the lowest of any metro area of the state - from 7 percent.

While the number of people working in the Triangle increased by nearly 5,000, to 806,727, the ranks of those out of work and seeking jobs grew by nearly 2,000, to 68,583, the ESC said.

However, the Bureau of Business Research at East Carolina University calculated that the jobless rate declined to 7.5 percent in May from 7.9 percent in April. The ECU data is seasonally adjusted for factors such as weather.

“The seasonal factors are developed over the 1990-2010 time period,” ECU’s James Kleckley said. “In effect, they adjust for the average ups and downs in the numbers during the year.”

Seasonally adjusted numbers are considered by economists to be a more accurate barometer of the labor market.

Kleckley also noted that a decline in the seasonally adjusted rate is not necessarily good news.

“If the unadjusted number goes up, but the seasonally adjusted number goes down, this means that we have not hired as many workers as was typically done in the past,” he said.

“For example, at the beach, we have hired 100 lifeguards in the past, but this year we only hire 50. The unadjusted number goes up, but the (seasonally adjusted) number will go down because it was expecting to add another 50 workers. Thus, by isolating the seasonal factors, we are only looking at the cyclicality of the economy, and in this case, the economy is not as strong as it should be at this time of the year.”

The ECU data provides only percentages; it does not include specific numbers for workforce, people working, people seeking employment.

North Carolina’s unemployment rate was 9.7 percent, compared with the U.S. rate of 9.1 percent. The state reported 31,059 new claims for unemployment benefits, down 752 from April. A year ago, new claims were 32,238. In May 2009, as the recession really took hold on the economy, new claims were 41,588.

ECU’s seasonally adjusted state jobless rate for May was 9.7 percent, the same as in April.

The jobless rates in other metro and county rates, which aren't seasonally adjusted, were reported by the ESC as follows:

  • In Fayetteville, 9.4 percent in May, up from 9.1 percent in April.
  • In Rocky Mount, 12.7 percent in May, up from 12.5 percent.
  • In Goldsboro, 8.5 percent in May, up from 8.3 percent.
  • Wake County, 7.6 percent in May
  • Durham County, 7.5 percent
  • Orange County, 6.2 percent
  • Johnston County, 8.8 percent
  • Chatham County, 6.6 percent
  • Franklin County, 9.4 percent

The next unemployment report will be issued July 22.



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