The Triangle jobless rate crept up in November and will likely improve marginally for the year, showing anemic economic growth in one of the state’s strongest job markets.
Unemployment was 7.6 percent in November, up from 7.5 percent in October, and down from 7.9 percent 11 months ago in January. That means that almost 70,000 people in the labor force were looking for jobs and counted as unemployed.
“We’re just not growing as fast as the nation,” said economist James Kleckley of East Carolina University.
The data was released by the Labor and Economic Division of the N.C. Department of Commerce and seasonally adjusted by Wells Fargo in Charlotte.
With one month of data remaining for last year’s economic picture, economists are already turning their focus to 2013 and predicting marginal to moderate improvements. The Triangle unemployment rate for December will be issued Jan. 30.
N.C. State University economist Michael Walden said Thursday that leading economic indicators for the next six months are at their highest in almost five years.
“An acceleration of North Carolina’s growth rate may be developing for early 2013,” Walden said.
Wells Fargo economist Mark Vitner was more cautious, based on past enthusiasm that proved misplaced. “We have more reasonable expectations today,” he said.
Vitner said there’s still a chance that 2012 numbers will come out better than they appear now. He said year-end revisions, which are to be released in February, tend to boost the annual total by including startups and other small businesses that are not reflected in the monthly job creation figures.
Vitner expects 2013 to be marginally better than this year, given the strength of the region’s technology and life-sciences sectors.
“The Triangle has the right mix of industries where the economy is today,” Vitner said.
The region’s economy is considerably stronger than much of North Carolina. The state jobless rate in November was 9.1 percent, down from 10.2 percent in January.
The Triangle lost about 800 jobs in November, according to Kleckley’s analysis of state data.
The 26,500 jobs gained for the year to date, according to Kleckley’s analysis, is on par with what some economists had projected, but still short of numbers that would be required to bring down unemployment to pre-recession levels below 4 percent.