Triangle unemployment rate remains unchanged in July

dranii@newsobserver.comAugust 28, 2013 

After falling for five consecutive months, the Triangle’s unemployment rate remained unchanged in July.

The unemployment rate was 7.3 percent in July, the same as in June based on revised data, according to data released by the N.C. Department of Commerce and seasonally adjusted by Wells Fargo economists.

“July is a slow month for the economy,” said Wells Fargo economist Mark Vitner. “Activity tends to slow except in the beach areas, where activity tends to pick up” thanks to tourism.

The jobs needle barely moved in July. The number of jobs dropped by 200 on a seasonally adjusted basis to 813,600.

“I suspect the job numbers are understated,” Vitner said. “There still seems to be a lot more positive news. There continue to be expansions” by Triangle businesses.

A year ago the Triangle’s unemployment rate stood at 7.9 percent.

“The Triangle has had pretty solid job growth and the unemployment rate is a tad below the national average,” said Stuart Hoffman, chief economist for PNC Financial Services Group. The national unemployment rate for July was 7.4 percent.

Vitner projects that the Triangle will add about 20,000 jobs this year, which will drop the unemployment rate to “just under 7 percent.”

“It’s still high from a historical sense for the Raleigh-Durham area, but it’s much better than the rest of the state,” Vitner said.

The state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 8.9 percent in July. That’s tied for third-worst in the nation, with only Illinois and Nevada having higher jobless rates.

Vitner said that a significant factor that goes into his unemployment projections for the Triangle is that about two-thirds of the drop in the unemployment rate in recent months has come from people dropping out of the labor force rather than getting jobs.

“If we start adding better jobs and more higher-paying jobs, I think we’ll see people coming back into the work force,” he said.

The labor force in the Triangle totaled 886,710 in July, down 12,269 from January, according to seasonally adjusted data from the state Department of Commerce.

Hoffman said that the Triangle’s high-tech employment base bodes well for the Triangle’s future.

“That’s a positive for the region in term of its growth prospects, not only over the next year but for many years to come,” he said.

High-tech jobs account for 14.1 percent of employment in Durham and 8.5 percent in Raleigh, according to PNC. By contrast, high-tech jobs account for less than 5 percent of jobs nationwide.

PNC projects that the local job market – which it defines as the Raleigh, Durham, Goldsboro and Rocky Mount metro areas – will grow faster than the national job market over the rest of this year and next year.

That includes a forecast 2.5 percent increase in jobs in 2014 locally, versus 1.5 percent nationally.

“We’ll continue to have a slow national recovery in jobs and economic output,” Hoffman said. “We forecast a little bit of a speed up ... over the next 18 months or so.”

Ranii: 919-829-4877

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