Triangle unemployment rate inches lower

dranii@newsobserver.comMay 1, 2013 

The Triangle’s unemployment rate declined incrementally in March, a sign that the local economy is moving in the right direction but is taking its sweet time on the road to recovery.

The unemployment rate fell from a revised 7.3 percent in February to 7.2 percent in March, according to data issued Wednesday by the state Commerce Department’s labor and economic analysis division and seasonally adjusted by Wells Fargo in Charlotte. The local unemployment rate for February was initially reported as 7.2 percent after seasonal adjustments – a big drop from 7.7 percent in January – but was revised with the release of the latest data.

“There is no question the unemployment rate is trending down,” said Wells Fargo economist Mark Vitner.

Still, Vitner projects that by year’s end the rate will fall just one-half of a percentage point, which would put it at 6.7 percent.

“A ‘normal’ unemployment rate for (the Triangle) would be below 5 percent,” he said.

The Triangle’s unemployment rate fell despite a loss of 1,600 jobs in March. That disconnect stems from the fact that the data released Wednesday comes from two sources.

The unemployment rate is based on a series of household interviews. The jobs numbers are based on surveys of employers.

After factoring in March’s decline, since the start of the year the Triangle has added 3,600 jobs. By contrast, the Triangle added 9,800 jobs in the first three months of 2012.

“Even though the pace of job growth is ... behind a year ago, I think the Triangle’s recovery is on track,” Vitner said. “Most industries are adding jobs.”

The Triangle unemployment rate remains well below the statewide rate of 9.2 percent. The national unemployment rate in March was 7.6 percent.

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in Charlotte dropped from 9.1 percent in February to 8.9 percent in March, the first month since December 2008 that the Queen City’s jobless rate fell below 9 percent.

“It’s still an atrociously high unemployment rate,” Vitner said.

Ranii: 919-829-4877

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