N.C. jobless rate declines

dbracken@newsobserver.comNovember 16, 2012 

The state’s unemployment rate fell for the second consecutive month in October.

North Carolina’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell three-tenths of a percentage point to 9.3 percent, the state Division of Employment Security reported Friday. The rate had fallen one-tenth of a percentage point in the previous month, and is now 1.3 percentage points below where it stood 12 months ago.

The state’s jobless rate remains well above the national rate of 7.9 percent.

North Carolina added 8,000 jobs in October after seasonal adjustments, according to a payroll survey of employers included in the state data. The largest gains were in the leisure and hospitality sector, which added 3,600 jobs.

“I’d say this is one of the better reports we’ve had all year,” said Michael Walden, an N.C. State University economist.

He noted that the job growth was fairly broad-based in the private sector. The only worrisome number in the report was a decline of 3,400 jobs in professional and business services, a sector that typically produces higher paying jobs.

“It’s a one-month drop; I suspect that will turn around down the road,” he said.

Walden is forecasting that job growth will accelerate in the state next year, with North Carolina adding 68,000 new jobs. That would be about double the rate of job growth over the past 12 months, when the state added 35,700 jobs.

The gains being made in North Carolina largely mirror the incremental improvements in the national economy, said James Kleckley, an East Carolina University economist.

Kleckley’s biggest concern is the fiscal cliff, the automatic federal spending cuts and tax increases scheduled to take place at the beginning of the year. The automatic “sequestration” cuts include substantial cuts to defense spending.

“With the large defense industry that we have in this state, I’m not sure what would happen if they went to sequestration, particularly for us in eastern North Carolina,” Kleckley said.

He believes a failure to avoid the fiscal cliff will tip the country back into a recession.

“The marginal gains that we’ve made in the last couple years could almost disappear overnight,” he said.

Bracken: 919-829-4548

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