Triangle unemployment rate falls to 5.1 percent

dranii@newsobserver.comApril 9, 2014 

The Triangle unemployment rate declined slightly to 5.1 percent in February, a low the region hasn’t seen since July 2008.

The local jobless rate dropped one-tenth of a percentage point in February, according to data released Wednesday by the N.C. Department of Commerce and seasonally adjusted by Wells Fargo. The Triangle unemployment rate for January previously was reported at 5.3 percent but has been revised to 5.2 percent.

The number of jobs in the Triangle rose by 1,000 in February on a seasonally adjusted basis, a reversal from a decline of 4,100 jobs in January. In 2013, the Triangle added 21,200 jobs.

Wells Fargo economist Mark Vitner attributed the latest improvement to strong growth in the technology and health care sectors.

“The pickup in hiring has also boosted demand for homes and apartments, which is fueling growth in construction,” Vitner wrote in an email. “We expect conditions to continue to improve over the course of this year and look for gains in commercial building to lift construction employment even further this year.”

The Triangle’s unemployment rate is significantly better than the state and national rates. The state’s jobless rate was 6.4 percent in February; the national unemployment rate was 6.7 percent.

“The Triangle is one of the bright spots of the state,” said James Kleckley, an economist at East Carolina University.

However, Kleckley believes that the Triangle unemployment rate, although certainly improving, probably should be higher than the numbers show.

“Remember, these are all estimates,” he said. “There’s not a real number that was released today.”

For example, the number of unemployed workers in the Triangle is an estimate derived from the labor force estimate for North Carolina. That state estimate, in turn, is based on the monthly Bureau of Labor Statistics survey, which has a sample size of about 60,000 households nationwide.

That said, Kleckley projects that the Triangle unemployment rate will continue to decline.

“Especially if the national economy keeps expanding, that will do nothing but benefit us in North Carolina … and the Triangle,” he said.

Ranii: 919-829-4877

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