In another sign that the economy is slowly improving, the Triangle’s unemployment rate inched downward for a third consecutive month in October.
The unemployment rate for the Triangle was 7.5 percent in October, down from 7.6 percent in September, according to data released Tuesday by the state Division of Employment Security and seasonally adjusted by Wells Fargo in Charlotte.
The recent across-the-board improvement in the unemployment picture – nationally, statewide and locally – “suggests the economy has a little more momentum than was previously thought,” Wells Fargo economist Mark Vitner said.
The Triangle unemployment rate has fallen more than a percentage point from a year earlier, when the rate stood at 8.7 percent.
Raleigh’s unemployment rate declined from 7.4 percent to 7.3 percent in October, while Durham’s rate dropped from 7.2 percent to 7.1 percent. By contrast, the state unemployment rate was 9.3 percent in October and the national jobless rate was 7.9 percent.
“Locally, we’ve seen activity continue to pick up and businesses – even though ... when you look at surveys of businesses they seem to be awfully concerned about the fiscal cliff and Europe and all the big issues – they still seem to be hiring,” Vitner said. “Employment is gradually improving, (but) it’s not as fast as we’ve seen in a typical recovery.”
“The strength,” he added, “appears to be broadening. As we’ve moved through the year, more and more industries seem to be hiring. And in 2013, construction is likely to join the party as homebuilding ramps up.”
That strength didn’t show up in the local job numbers that come from surveying employers, however. That data, after seasonal adjustments, showed that the number of jobs in the Triangle fell by 1,500.
Year-to-date, the Triangle has added about 9,000 jobs, which Vitner said was “very disappointing” – about half the job growth he was expecting.
However, he added, he anticipates that the job numbers will be revised upward because the initial data uncovered by the survey tends to miss a lot of the hiring done by startups and other young companies.
John Quinterno of South by North Strategies, a Chapel Hill firm specializing in economic and social policy, said that the Triangle is definitely better off than it was a year ago by a number of measures – including more people with jobs, fewer people unemployed and a lower unemployment rate.
At the same time, he added, “we should remember that conditions are still not as good as they were four years ago.”
In October 2008 the unemployment rate was 5.5 percent.