The Triangle unemployment rate fell for the second consecutive month.
The regions unemployment rate declined to 7.7 percent in February, from 7.9 percent in January, according to data released Thursday by the state Division of Employment Security and seasonally adjusted by Wells Fargo. The latest data also included a downward revision of Januarys unemployment rate for the Triangle, which was previously reported as 8.1 percent.
The pace of economic recovery seems to have picked up across North Carolina, said Wells Fargo economist Mark Vitner. Businesses are feeling a little more confident ... about expanding their operations and hiring a few more employees.
Still, a key driver in the lower unemployment rate is a slowdown in layoffs. Layoffs have slowed a lot more than hiring has picked up, Vitner said.
In September, the Triangle jobless rate was a full percentage point higher 8.7 percent.
The decline in the Triangle unemployment rate mirrors what has been happening statewide and nationally. The state unemployment rate dipped dropped to 9.9 percent in February, its lowest point in more than a year. The national unemployment rate stood at 8.3 percent in February; national unemployment data for March is scheduled to be released today.
The Triangle has added 16,700 jobs over the past 12 months. Vitner expects the pace to quicken this year.
I think well be close to 20,000 (new jobs) in the private sector, he said. State and local government employment will probably see a slight decline.
That kind of job growth could lower the Triangles unemployment rate to around the 7 percent mark by the end of the year, he said.
Despite the dropping unemployment rate, it remains quite high, said John Quinterno, a principal with South by North Strategies, a Chapel Hill research firm that focuses on economic and social policy.
Theres still a great deal of hardship, he said.
In 2007, the Triangle unemployment rate was below 4 percent.